Are Male University Students’ Perception on Female Gender role Differs with Higher Education and Discipline of Study?

Research Article

Austin J Womens Health. 2016; 3(1): 1021.

Are Male University Students’ Perception on Female Gender role Differs with Higher Education and Discipline of Study?

Wijewardene K*

Department of Community Medicine, Sri Jayawardenepura University, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka

*Corresponding author: Kumudu Wijewardene, Department of Community Medicine, Sri Jayawardenepura University, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka

Received: March 06, 2016; Accepted: June 06, 2016; Published: June 08, 2016


Higher education and wider exposure to outside world through information technology is expected to change the mindset of university students on perception of gender roles. Perception of male students regarding female gender role of mother, wife and girlfriend was studied by using a self-administered questionnaire on randomly selected 560 students from a state university Sri Lanka. Nearly 67%% of the respondents agreed that it should be men who should hold managerial/administrative posts and there was no difference among different faculties with this regard. Eighty eight percent students did not approve wife or girl friend wearing trousers and nearly 80% sleeveless blouses. Nearly half the sample (48.3%) condoned verbal abuse of wives. However, more than 78% students did not condone physical abuse of their mother (by the father), girlfriend or wife. It is imperative to change the mindset of university students who will be future leaders for the society to progress in gender equity and equality.

Keywords: University Education; Male Perception; Female Gender Roles; Sri Lanka


In Sri Lanka, without gender discrimination, girls and boys have equal access to free education and the literacy rate of the country is 92% [1]. Of the total university admission in 2013, 60% were women. However, in Sri Lanka, according to the census and statistics report 2013, only 33.4% females contribute to national economy [2]. Higher education is free from the kindergarten through university. However, only around 10 percent of students who sit for the General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) examination get the opportunity to enter a state university to pursue higher studies. Theses students, after their university education, have a higher chance of holding administrative positions making policies and decisions at all levels of both state and private sectors. Students who study Management and Commerce, Medicine, Humanities and Applied Sciences are exposed to different subject areas and social outlooks. The emphasis in gender equity and equality during their formative years in the university differ according to subjects they study. In young university students’ mind, the exposure to university education and exposure to the outside world through modern technology and social media should make an impact on perception on gender equity and equality helping them to change attitudes inculcated in them from childhood. A recent study focusing on masculinity and gender based violence, conducted by Care International among 1568 male participants of 18 to 49 years representing all social classes in four districts of Sri Lanka [3] showed that 57.4% men had felt that women’s most important role was to take care of her home and that 34.9% of men with tertiary education had admitted having been physically or sexually violent to their intimate partner. The attitude of the students whether in Asia or United States did not differ much. A study that was carried out in the United States in 2002 to examined college students’ plans and attitudes concerning work and family and gender differences showed that 27 % of men agreed that men should be the primary financial providers and about one third of them agreed that women should be the primary caretakers of children. Only 27% of men strongly agreed that it is important for a woman as for a man to support herself financially [4].


A cross sectional descriptive study was carried out on 560 students selected randomly from four faculties of the university: Humanities, Management and Commerce, Applied Sciences, and Medicine. Students were in their 3rd year of study and with their consent pretested questionnaire was distributed among them just before a lecture and filled forms were collected in the evening in a box kept in a place convenient to students. They were asked to fill the questionnaire without consulting anyone and to maintain confidentiality and anonymity. The questionnaire included mainly questions and statements to assess male students’ perception regarding gender roles and expectations and acceptance of social norms with regard to mother, girlfriend and wife to be.


Of the total sample of 560 undergraduates, the number who returned the questionnaires that were complete was 534. Majority students were Sinhalese (95%) followed by Muslims (3%) and Tamils (2%). A great majority of Sinhala students (98.6%) were Buddhists while rest (2.4%) was Christians. All Muslims and all Tamils were Islam devotees and Hindus respectively. Of the 534 respondents 24% were from the Faculty of Medical Sciences, 30% from the faculty of Humanities, 30% from the Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce and 16% from the Faculty of Applied Sciences. The age of the study sample ranged from 19 to 25 years with a mean of 22.1 years. Majority were unmarried (97%) and 64% indicated that they had previous love affair and 46% of the respondents were currently in a relationship.

A majority of respondents were from the districts close to Colombo. Almost half of the respondents have been educated in boys’ only schools. When considering the educational level of parents of respondents, 74.7% of their mothers and 71.2% of fathers were educated above General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) examination i.e. they have had more than 10 years of education. Nearly half of the mothers were housewives and only 26.4% were professionals. While all fathers were working only 25.7% of them were professionals.

Although majority of students were coming from families with educated parents, 75.3% of respondents held the view that the chief householder in a family should be a male. Ninety two percent wanted their girl friends or wives to care for their parents and 82.4% of respondents agreed that a wife should be competent in cooking. The perception of students regarding whose responsibility is household chores differed according to the person about whom they responded— mother or wife. In the sample 56.7% agreed with statement that childcare is primarily the wife’s responsibility, but only 40% agreed with the statement that child care is primarily mothers’ responsibility and 71.1% held the view that cooking and household activities is wife’s primary responsibility but of mothers it reduced to 54%. Nearly 75% indicated that their mothers should not be employed while only 57% indicated that their wives should not be employed.

Of the respondents, 66.5% agreed that it should be men who should hold managerial and administrative posts and among faculties there was no statistically significant difference in students’ views. However, faculty of Applied Sciences had the highest percentage (72.4%) that felt men should hold administrative posts compared to 60.7% Medical, 66.5% Humanities and 62.6% Management and Commerce. The male students also had strong views regarding the dress code for girlfriend or wife. Nearly 88% students did not like their either wives or girl friends to wear trousers, and nearly 80% of the total sample did not want either girl friends or wives to wear sleeveless blouses. Seventy one percent of the total sample did not want girlfriend or their wives to wear tight skirts. There was no statistical significant difference among students of different faculties in these opinions (table1). Nearly 90% and 92% respectively agreed that females should not consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Almost 78% of the students were firmly of the view that their bride to be should be a virgin. The differences in the percentages of students who had this view regarding virginity of the bride to be, among faculties was statistically significant (p < 0.01) where high percentage (90%) was for the faculty of Management and Commerce.

Nearly half of the respondents (48.3%) condoned verbal abuse of wife but when verbal abuse of girl friend and mother (by the father) were inquired lower percentages (43.8% and 41.8% respectively) condoned them and these differences were statistically significant(Cochran Q test, p<0.01). There were no statistically significant differences in percentages that condone verbal abuse of wife among fields of study. However, faculty of Humanities recorded the highest percentage. In contrast, with regard to condoning verbal abuse of girl friend and mother (by the father) the differences in percentages of respondents among faculties were statistically significant with faculty of Humanities recording the highest percentage in both instances (Table 1). However, students did not condone physical abuse of their mother (81%), girlfriend (80%) or wife (78%) and there was no significant difference among faculties among faculties (Table 1).

Citation: Wijewardene K. Are Male University Students’ Perception on Female Gender role Differs with Higher Education and Discipline of Study?. Austin J Womens Health. 2016; 3(1): 1021.