Let’s talk more about the new feature on LinkedIn – the addition of career breaks. LinkedIn recently added a feature where people can add their own spin on a gap in their career. In the new feature, you have the option to choose the dates of your career break and a dropdown list of various options to describe it.
“We’re rolling out the ability for our members to add a Career Break to their Profile, whether it was taken for full-time parenting, bereavement, caregiving, a gap year, layoff, or other life needs or experience… We are hoping this new feature will make it easier for candidates and recruiters to have open conversations around the skills and experiences professionals amass away from the traditional workplace” (Shappley, 2022). I love that. I hope so, too.
Normalizing career breaks that have long been a very real part of life, albeit a secret we desperately tried to cover up. I thought the normalization of LinkedIn’s career breaks were pretty groovy… until I dug a little bit into well-established research. Now, I’m a little worried.
Not to be pessimistic (I like to call it realistic – let’s consider all the moving pieces and the facts and data points we have), but the new LinkedIn career breaks feature may have unintended consequences if not appropriately addressed, tracked & prioritized. I want non-judgmental career breaks just as much as the next person. But let’s not ignore the research.
3 Impacts of LinkedIn’s ‘Career Breaks’
1. It may benefit dads more than moms
In theory, the idea of destigmatizing career breaks or “unseen journeys” is great. In practice, it can be a different story.
Who does the “career breaks” feature benefit? Is the “career breaks” feature damaging to any party? Let’s unpack that…
*Alert: Even if you’re not a parent – KEEP READING. Dads have a leg up on all of us apparently…
Bias, unconscious or not, is something that needs to be strongly considered with the use of career breaks, which could have further impacts on gender divides (specifically for parents) in the workplace.
The stats surrounding parents are a little staggering. Be warned.
Particularly within parenting, research shows that fathers get a leg up with the fatherhood bonus. Fathers make 6% more per child (Budig, Correll et al., Miller).
Do mothers get a bonus? I’m sure you guessed it – they don’t. Not only do they not get a bonus, they actually endure a penalty (in addition to the penalty which is the poor excuse of (a lack of) family leave policies in this country).
With the motherhood penalty, mothers make 4% less per child (Budig, Correll et al., Miller). I am dead.
Folks, it doesn’t stop there. Fathers additionally get a higher rate of callbacks for jobs (even more than men without kids) while mothers get fewer than both (Budig, Correll et al., Miller).
“Employers were less likely to call back a woman if she was a mother and offered $11,000 less than childless women and $13,000 less than fathers” (Plank, Correll).
Gagging. I am gagging at the pure inequity that is so much the norm without question.
2. It may create a greater gender divide in the workplace
Which brings me to my next point. Will the career breaks option be an opportunity to further divide the pay gap? I hope not, but it’s worth thinking about & tracking.
Plank expertly points out the “rankings” of parents & non parents in modern day society. The hierarchy is as follows:
- men with kids
- men without kids
- women without kids
- women with kids
*missing from the list are those who identify as nonbinary
Do you see how these LinkedIn career breaks might cause a greater gender divide? Me too.
And she’s (Liz) not wrong. Look around you. Look at the research.
*It’s worth noting that LinkedIn implemented this feature with women in mind: “We’ve heard from our members, including 68% of women, who’ve said they wanted more ways to positively represent their career breaks by highlighting skills learned and experiences they had during a work pause” (Shappley, 2022). Let’s give them some credit.
They even recognize that it takes considerable time to destigmatize and get to an unbiased place: “While it may take some time to destigmatize career breaks globally… We found half (51%) of employers would more likely call a candidate back if they knew the context of why they took a career break” (Shappley, 2022). This is *hopefully* a step in the right direction. Naming why people are out of the “traditional” workforce.
We also need to analyze the other factors (above) at stake.
Gender Divide Exhibit A: #1 LinkedIn Dad
Just the other day I saw it in action. Someone’s (a man’s) LinkedIn profile headline (the headline!) was #1 Dad Jokes on LinkedIn.
I. Was. Floored. Have you ever seen a woman with a “#1 Mom Jokes” or ANYTHING referring to being a mom on LinkedIn? No – because they rightly know it unjustifiably holds them back in their career.
Maybe once for a woman really “leaning in” (good for her!). I actually did see a very brave acquaintance post their headline as Stay at Home Mom (even before this revolution materialized). And go back to see and reread how I characterized it – BRAVE. Because that’s exactly what I thought when she had her headline set to that. Because I know just as well as you how the social norms and hierarchies work, even before Liz Plank helpfully spelled it out for us.
Who is allowed to wave their parenthood flag?
I’m not saying I’m against dad jokes or even this person who has their LinkedIn profile headline set to that. I love dad jokes. I like people who tell dad jokes! But I also acutely recognize who is allowed to wave their parenthood flag… and who is not.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that dads and moms do, too. It’s not hard to read society’s expectation of you. We reward it with praise and promotions and penalize it through lower pay and fewer opportunities.
Can you even imagine if you saw a LinkedIn member’s headline set us “Mom Conquering the Day” – not that they shouldn’t, but the societal backlash (written or just inside their head) would be horrific. “Who do they think they are, calling themselves a GOOD mom?!” Society as a whole is not so kind to moms.
This is not to say that dads shouldn’t post or feel comfortable to share their experience being a dad. But it is to say that we need to work to create a culture and work spaces where both parents feel comfortable posting about their parenthood status and don’t face the fear of potentially being penalized.
I sincerely hope the naming of this (LinkedIn headlines) starts its own revolution, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Which is why these career breaks may just turn out to help men and hurt women. No, it doesn’t always have to be about that (gender, not to mention race and other markers of identity that have historically held certain groups back) but… a lot of times we clearly see the consequences of it.
Gender Divide Exhibit B: Male Caretaker
A few days ago I replied to a post where a (well-meaning) (male) boss hired someone (male) who was engaged in a career break and cited how courageous the candidate was for not only taking a career break, but also having the courage to speak up about it. It was a beautiful story and it turned out the man taking the career break was taking care of his sick father. Admirable. Lovely. Beautiful. (Really).
But I couldn’t help but think how it would be if the tables were turned (and they often are, historically speaking. Women have long been the caretakers of children, aging, and sick family members). I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
And when women have that common position (taking care of family members), they aren’t often cited as “courageous.” It’s typically something that’s just “expected” of them.
3. It may foster important workplace conversations regarding equity
Ok, let’s take this another route. It may end up shining a light on the hardships and “invisible penalties” that have been accumulating over the years.
It’s the hope that the normalization of career breaks is not something to be ashamed of or to waiver away from in hiring practices. Even if a candidate doesn’t want to share, the hope is that they’d be afforded the same grace this (male) candidate was.
LinkedIn acknowledged the bias career breaks have traditionally had from employers, stating: “What some employers may not realize are the varied benefits that a career break can bring: fresh perspectives, new skills, and a renewed sense of energy” (Shappley, 2022). Women know all too well that employers are quick to overlook all the acquired skills a career break can bring. Men – not so much.
The hope is that these career breaks are a conduit to foster a larger discussion and conversation about equity in the workplace and that we hold this same space for all genders. It is the hope that we evolve to where all genders are afforded the same types of career breaks without penalization. And that this does not turn into an opportunity that creates larger gender divides.
It’s possible. And we are in charge of the narrative. So let’s shift the narrative and create change.
(Also, do you follow me on LinkedIn? Do that. I post a lot of this there, too. Support me so I don’t feel so lonely (they won’t kick me off, will they!? 😉 Rocking the boat in the name of equitable workplaces is good 😉
*Can we normalize putting the salary in the job description next?
If LinkedIn can normalize career breaks, they can normalize putting the salary in the job description.
For the love of God, can you please put the salary in the job description, LinkedIn?!
When they ask you the question at the bottom of a job advertisement: Are you interested in knowing the salary for this position? ….. YES. I’m VERY interested in the salary information.That’s WHY I’m here. I’m not working for free. Most of us aren’t working on our “passions”. And even if we are, it isn’t free to live. Quite far from it. Give me the info you know I want. PLEASE!
Am I more interested in the salary information than the job? YES. Why is that such a controversial answer!? It takes MONEY to live, John. It takes MONEY to have a passion, James.
How can we streamline this process?
*Idea: Just… require it. LinkedIn could make the change.
Let’s name that not knowing the pay up front wastes everyone’s time. Let’s stop wasting people’s time. Employers & potential employees alike.
Let’s streamline the system. It’s not hard. It just takes implementation.
If LinkedIn can normalize a career break, they can normalize putting the salary in the job description
I will die on this hill. Put the salary in the job description. Make it a requirement. Period. Get it done. Overdue.
I’m honestly so optimistic about the future of work because just in the past 1-2 years, we’ve completely changed the work world. Factors were involved, but work as we know it and the conversations around it have completely transformed.
The Great Resignation signified a fundamental shift in the power dynamics at work. Women had no small part in that and said hell no, this workplace was never made for me – why would I go back?
I’m confident that’s here to stay. We’re voicing what we need more than ever before. Demanding what we need and there’s no going back.
It’s a worker’s market, but even when/ if the tide changes, we can’t unknow what we know now. We’re changed. And we will forever make change. For good. To make work a more tolerable (workable and hopefully… enjoyable) place to be.
The ball is in LinkedIn’s court
Even with the potential consequences LinkedIn career breaks may have, it’s generally understood that it came from a place of good. Good intentions were behind it to normalize a workplace taboo that never should have been one. Career breaks are a normal part of life. LinkedIn is working to normalize (and even celebrate?) them.
Through the LinkedIn career breaks, the hope is they’ll be normalized for EVERYONE.
Now let’s take it further.
Put the salary in the job description.
Let’s normalize that, too.
*Correll, S. J., Benard, S., & Paik, I. (2007). Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty? American Journal of Sociology, 112(5), 1297–1338. https://doi.org/10.1086/511799
*Budig, Michelle, sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts
*Liz Plank @feministabulous, award-winning journalist, author and the executive producer and host of several critically acclaimed digital series at Vox Media and NBC News,
🌍 Bestselling author #ForTheLoveOfMen
🎥 Director @notsospecialfilm
🎙 Cohost #ManEnough
🌈 Columnist @msnbc
*”The Motherhood Penalty vs. The Fatherhood Bonus” (2014) The New York Times
Author: Claire Cain Miller
*”LinkedIn Members Can Now Spotlight Career Breaks on Their Profiles” – @LinkedIn (2022)
Author: Jennifer Shappley – VP, Global Talent Acquisition at LinkedIn
**The research may be a few years old & if you’ve found more recent research, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (… but… there’s not a lot of super recent research on this…).
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