It may come as a surprise, but men may have better opportunities if they stay unemployed rather if they accept part-time work.
David Pedulla, a sociologist with the University of Texas at Austin, sent out several thousand fake resumes to see how work history and gender would affect the number of callbacks. The results he found showed that women currently working part-time jobs were twice as likely to receive a callback as men.
“There seem to be penalties for men who choose to work part time that are just as significant as being unemployed, while women appeared to not face any such penalty,” reported Prof. Pedulla.
During the 2007-2009 recession, an estimated one out of every six U.S. workers lost their job at least once. The unemployment rate continued at a higher-than-average rate in the years that the economy was recovering. Research shows that the psychological and financial damage created through unemployment can be long-lasting.
The research completed by Prof. Pedulla involved over 2,400 applications, submitted for 1,210 open positions. The study was completed throughout five cities in the U.S. between November of 2012 and June of 2013. The fake resumes belonged to both female and male candidates who were graduates of large public universities throughout the Midwest.
The candidates were given similar work histories until the prior 12 months. For the most recent 12-month period, each candidate was put into one of five categories. The applicants were either unemployed, working at a job below their skill level (a retail store sales associate), were working at a position provided by a temporary employment agency, working a part-time position, or working full time.
Of the male and female applicants who currently already had full-time employment, over 10 percent received a call back from the potential employer.
The men and women who were working a job well below their skill level received much lower numbers. Of the women, 5.2 percent received a call back compared to 4.7 percent of male workers.
The candidates employed through a temporary agency received similar results. Men received a call back rate of 7.1 percent. This category came in second, only behind those who already had a full time job. The women employed through temporary services received a call back of 8.3 percent.
When it came to hiring female applicants, the employers didn’t penalize them for being in a part-time job. They received a call back rate of 10.9 percent. However, male applicants who were currently working part-time positions only received a 4.8 percent call back rate. This was just slightly better than the 4.2 percent of unemployed men who received a call back. The rate of unemployed women who were called back was 7.5 percent.
According to a separate survey, which was given to managers in charge of the hiring process, men are penalized for taking a part-time position because it creates the perception of a lack of commitment.
While this does not explain why managers don’t perceive women that way, maybe managers assume that women working part-time may have done so for childcare reasons (and are now more available to work full-time) whereas men (whom managers may assume have never had to cut back on work hours for childcare reasons) in a part-time role might be signaling something negative about their competency.