Women Are More Likely to Be Underemployed Than Men

More women than men consider themselves to be underemployed, according to PayScale’s latest report, The Underemployed: The War on the American Worker. Underemployed women and men also pick different reasons for characterizing themselves this way, according to our survey.

Forty-nine percent of women and 43 percent of men report being underemployed. Women were more likely to consider themselves underemployed because they worked part-time, but wanted full-time work (28 percent of women; 21 percent of men), while men were more likely to feel that their jobs didn’t use their education and training (79 percent of men; 72 percent of women).

Why does type of underemployment matter, and why should we care that more women feel that they are underemployed? Because these data point to other problems facing working women today, including the gender pay gap and the opportunity gap.

underemployed woman

(Photo Credit: Molly Porter/Unsplash)

“Women’s Work” Pays Less

Men are more likely to work in high-paying occupations than women. PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap, shows that women are more likely to hold lower-paying job titles like Administrative Assistant or Paralegal, while men are more likely to be Computer Software Engineers or Construction Managers.


Even when women go into higher-paying occupations, their career trajectory may take a hit if they attempt to go part-time, in order to combine work and raising a family. Many professional jobs simply do not offer part-time hours.

“If physicians or lawyers in private practice decide to take on fewer patients or clients, no one assumes that they concomitantly lose their medical or legal expertise,” writes Denise Cummins at PBS Newshour. “But that is not what happens across the workplace spectrum. Those who opt to go part-time quickly discover that there is no such thing as a part-time job at the managerial or professional level. Part-time workers are not considered capable or worthy of managerial or professional duties — even if that is what they were doing before.”

But Don’t Women Just Prefer to Work Part-Time?

But, the problem isn’t just women “choosing” to work part-time. Even when female workers are fully committed to their careers, they’re less likely to be promoted and likely to be paid less when they are promoted, compared with men in similar jobs and with similar qualifications.


Furthermore, women experience a wage penalty for marrying and having a family even when they don’t prioritize their personal lives over their professional ones. Married women with children who report never putting family before work still make 1.1 percent less than men in the same jobs and with the experience and education. The pay gap is zero only for single men and women who have no children and never prioritize home life over professional life.

This contradicts one of the common arguments against the existence of the gender pay gap, namely that it’s really a wage gap, and that women earn less because they work fewer hours. In fact, it seems that even when women work as much and as hard as men, and have the same qualifications, unconscious bias may keep them from being taken as seriously by the folks in charge of promotions and raises.

It’s also important to note that the women who responded to PayScale’s survey for the underemployment report felt themselves to be underemployed – in other words, they didn’t opt out of the full-time workforce voluntarily.

In short, working women are more likely to have jobs that offer only part-time hours, and less likely to earn as much as men when they work in professional occupations.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you underemployed? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.