“We are like a repellent,” an attractive woman graduate working at a top investment company told me. As I surveyed accomplished women this past week, one after the other told the same story. The men are intimidated. They are socialised into being in charge – socially, intellectually and financially – like their fathers and the men before them. It is the woman partner who used to get put down at those stuffy cocktail events or dinner with colleagues: “So what do you do?” An answer like “I’m just an ordinary housewife” meant the questioner simply moved on to someone more interesting. But the woman in question is married.

Dear young South African women,  I am sorry to be the bearer of the bad news but it appears that for women, the more education you achieve, the less likely you are to find a partner to date or marry. This is by no means a South African phenomenon. In the US there are studies about African American women with higher degrees who routinely find it difficult to land a date, let alone a husband, among black men. So many stay single and others marry white men. And there you thought education was an unadulterated good thing. The future looks even bleaker for smart women with degrees. My colleagues Van Broekhuizen and Spaull at Stellenbosch University (SU) call this “The Martha effect” in a paper subtitled “The compounding female advantage in South African higher education”. It turns out that in academic studies women continue to do better than men over time. Before, the literature used to speak about “The Matthew effect”, referring to the continued advantage of boys in reading. No more. Th...

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