LinkedIn has announced several new features that will allow users to identify as stay-at-home parents or self-employed and explain employment gaps as working professionals navigate an ever-changing work landscape triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week the professional networking site unveiled its stay-at-home option, which allows users to add the title "stay-at-home mom" or "stay-at-home dad" to their profiles. In the coming weeks, the company will also add "parental leave," "family care" and "sabbatical" options to the growing list, CBS News reported.
"We've heard from our members, particularly women and mothers who have temporarily stopped working, that they need more ways to reflect career gaps on their profile due to parenting and other life responsibilities," said Bef Ayenew, LinkedIn's director of engineering, according to The Lily. "We introduced new job titles, including 'stay-at-home mom,' 'stay-at-home dad' and 'stay-at-home parent,' to allow full-time parents and caretakers to more accurately display their roles."
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a particularly devastating effect on female employees. Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor show more than 2 million women have left the labor force in the past year, a trend partially fueled by layoffs and lack of childcare options.
LinkedIn is also introducing a new field where users can explain employment gaps, and will no longer require users to choose a company or employer in their profile, CBS News reported.
The move comes weeks after travel writer Heather Bolen published a widely read piece on Medium criticizing LinkedIn for its limited job title options and "old-fashioned, sexist terminology" for caregiving roles like "homemaker." As a result, Bolen argued, women have used "gimmicks" like "Mom, Family COO, Director of Operations, and Chief Home Officer" to describe periods of unemployment," Bolen wrote.
"There shouldn't be shame in trying to be open about taking time off and then wanting to come back," Bolen told Fortune. "That's even more the case with the pandemic, and all the women leaving the workforce."
Speaking to Fortune, Ayenew said he agreed with Bolen's critiques and the need to "normalize employment gaps on the profile to help reframe hiring conversations."
Ayenew added that more big changes to LinkedIn's profile are coming, including an option for users to add gender pronouns to the top of their profiles.
"The profile is very, very core and foundational to our entire ecosystem — so we have to be very careful and deliberate about the changes we make," he told Fortune. "We are finally getting to it — and we're excited to be rolling it out."