According to new research from the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU), men are almost twice as likely as women to be unemployed six months after graduating.
Although the figures aren't huge - an estimated eight per cent of men are jobless six months after a first degree, compared with 4.7 per cent of women - the difference is significant. But it's not as if more women walk straight into graduate roles. The study of 2004 graduates found women were just as likely to take up part-time or unpaid work.
"Clearly, women are more prepared to take interim jobs if their dream role doesn't come along, whereas men who aren't successful in the traditional milk round are more likely to continue waiting for their dream job to arrive," says Mike Hill, chief executive of HECSU.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), isn't surprised. "Just from my personal experience as a graduate recruiter in days gone by, women tend to listen to alternatives and be flexible in their job search, whereas men seem to hang on until they get exactly what they want," he says.
He believes these male graduates are doing themselves an injustice. "If you're working, it's easier to get another job. The longer you go without a job, the more difficult it becomes."
He adds, "Work experience is almost always useful in helping you build some skills and it looks better not to have a gap on your CV."
He believes female graduates are less status conscious. "They think, 'OK, I'm a graduate, but so what? If no graduate jobs come along straight away, I'll do something else.' This is the right attitude to have, in my opinion, provided you don't take your eye off your long-term goal."
Scott Knox, managing director of the Marketing Communications Consultants Association (MCCA), which has a graduate recruitment scheme, agrees. "Men tend to want to attain positions of high responsibility immediately after leaving university. But their expectations are both idealistic and unrealistic."
Sue McLelland, who is in charge of graduate recruitment at Angela Mortimer recruitment consultancy, runs a work experience programme for graduates. Out of 101 candidates placed last year, only 20 were male. "Quite often, females are more open to thinking outside the box and looking at things like work experience to get where they want to be," she says.
Anthony Hesketh, a researcher from Lancaster University Management School, adds that women may be better at actually landing jobs than men. "Our latest research into the graduate assessment process involved talking to students before they were short listed about their employability, then following them through the assessment process and talking to the recruiters afterwards. What transpired was that women tend to be very good at getting inside the heads of people on the other side of the table, as well as at researching the job in hand."
"Men tend to take the attitude, 'If they want me, fine, if they don't, that's ok too.' Women, on the other hand, tend to be much more adept at realising that the assessment process can be manipulated," he says.
For Amanda Glover, 24, the thought of finishing her English degree at the University of Birmingham with no work filled her with fear. "Right through my education, I've always been quite conscious about the next stage of my development," she says. "I couldn't have just left university with no prospects, whereas most of the guys I knew did just that."
But it's not all bad news for men. Year on year trends suggest they may be improving their act and closing the gap, says Mike Hill. The picture is also rosier for men at Masters or PhD level. HECSU found that six per cent of male Masters graduates were unemployed after six months, compared with 3.8 per cent of women. The figures after PhD were 4.5 per cent for men and 3.1 per cent for women.
Published: 01 June 2006, The Independant Online