Relationships on top: hierarchies of dating

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Levels of education can create relationship problems for students. (Rebecca Sedore/Ryersonian staff)

It’s a woman’s world on campus, according to a recent Statistics Canada report, which said that about 60 per cent of college and university students are female.

According to Ramona Pereira, an Etobicoke-based certified relationship coach, having fewer men acquiring diplomas and degrees means that women will be “dumbing down” when it comes to dating selection.

“There’s been a shift over the last 10 years where more women are dominating the classrooms and as a result couples have unequal levels of education in the relationship,” Pereira said.

Ryerson students Fay Reznik and Angela King conducted a study on the issue as a final assignment for a sociology class. As young women who are completing their degrees, they wanted to see how dating trends in relation to levels of education would impact their lives.

The students surveyed two sample groups for their study: male and female students from different ethnic backgrounds currently in post-secondary institutions, and married couples who are already established in their professions.

“The aim of the study was to determine whether there was a change in the traditional gender roles among heterosexual couples in which women had an equal or higher level of education than their male partner,” said Reznik.

According to their findings, most of the students surveyed preferred to date someone with a similar level of education or higher, while most of the married couples interviewed did not care about levels of education and valued things like chemistry and communication within the relationship.

Pereira wasn’t surprised with the students’ findings; she said many students in particular are afraid of the social repercussions of dating someone with a lower level of education.

When friends and colleagues have university degrees, “some people will feel embarrassed if their significant other can’t relate to this lifestyle,” Pereira said. “When you’re young and you’re starting your career, you have no stability, so biologically you will be more attracted to someone with a degree because it suggests that they will have a secure income.” Pereira explains although more women get a post-secondary education, this doesn’t necessarily mean these females will make more money in the relationship. “It’s easier for a man to make a decent living without a degree then it is for a woman. A man can get into a trade and end up making more than someone with a university degree.”

Sabrina Gallati is a third-year social work student at Ryerson and is dating someone who isn’t enrolled in university. “My boyfriend is in the trades. He’s working as a plumber and that never bothered me,” she said. “If he treats you well, understands you and makes you smile, then a degree at a fancy university really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.”

Pereira explains that once a male or female establish themselves in their careers and acquire financial security, then they will date for love, and the social pressures to be with someone with a similar education is not as important.

Steven Lajoie, a third-year business management student, said he would not be intimidated if he made less money than his partner. “I think one day it will be inevitable that there will be more women in executive positions than men,” he said. “I’m OK with that.”

The Reznik and King study also suggests that as more women enter the workforce, men will inevitably take on household tasks like cooking and cleaning and tending to the children.
“The gender roles are reversing, many women are the primary breadwinners in the relationship and the males have taken on once female-oriented roles,” says Reznik.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on February 26, 2014.

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