For many girls looks matter, and the pressure to be pretty. A third of seven to ten year olds believe they aren’t pretty enough, they should lose weight, and over half feel the need to be perfect. And as girls get older, this only get worse. This is just some of the findings from the largest, annual research study into the attitudes of girls, published by Girl Guiding UK.
The study gives the world a snapshot of what girls in the UK are thinking about a variety of issues including body confidence, sexism, social media, mental health, education and aspiration.
I have a little girl, she knows her own mind, she’s forthright and vocal (very vocal). So when I read the findings from the Girls’ Attitudes Survey, I feel sad, then angry. Because I want my girl to feel confident, to have ambition, to know she can do any job she wants. That’s not to much to ask, is it?
But there are so many obstacles in the way of girls’ progress:
- The reality is, the world is unequal
- Girls are subject to gender stereotyping
- Girls aren’t being given the same choices as boys in school
- Girls are bombarded 24/7 with images of how they should look
- They see potential role models judged on their looks and life style, not their achievements
If you get a chance – take a look at the report its vital reading, getting into the mindset of what it is to be a girl in 2016.
Highlights from the Girls’ Attitudes Survey
- From as young as seven, the pressure is on to look and feel pretty. Girls are reporting they are embarrassed and ashamed of how they look
- Gender stereotyping is rife, everyday girls see and experience sexism and stereotyping. But the good news is they feel confident to challenge sexist behaviour when they see it
- Threats to safety, sexual harassment mean girls are changing their behaviour
- Online and social media is a big part of children’s lives. Girls think sexism is worse online. Many girls have experienced this themselves making them feel silenced. But, half of girls say social media empower themselves to speak out
- Girls’ happiness is following a downward trend, it only gets worse as they get older. At the same time girls are proud their achievements
- Girls are just not getting the same access to choices as boys
But there is good news
- Though girls feel the workplace is unequal, they have high aspirations and feel inspired by a diversity of role models. Half feel more determined despite inequality in leadership
Source Girls’ Attitudes Survey
What do girls want to change?
When asked what changes they would like to see, girls said:
- Don’t judge me on my looks
- We want fairness regardless of our background
- We want to be safe
- Tackle online sexism and abuse of women and girls
- More support with mental health
- Help us to improve our understanding of sexual consent
- We want more women in top jobs
Who are girls’ role models
This is interesting. If girls had chosen pop stars like Beyoncé, it was “Because she is a really good singer and tells people that everyone is beautiful the way they are” or Taylor Swift, “She is determined and hard working.” They admired girls and women who took a stand such as Malala Yousafzai because, “She is extremely brave and courageous, she fights for what she believes in” or Emma Watson because “She is fighting for equal rights for both men and women.”
Source Girls’ Attitudes Survey
As a mum, what can I do boost my girl’s self-esteem
- Be a better listener
- Make sure I say my daughter is smart, bright, intelligent (same goes for my son)
- I’m going give more praise, especially for their achievements
- I’m not going to shy from talking about sexual health
- Keep gender stereotyping in check
- Find great role models – artists, scientists, authors, engineers, astronauts
- Find great resources, check out A might Girl (I love this site) and check out this Kickstarter funded book Good Night stories for Rebel Girls
Picture credit, Eric Prunier, courtesy of Flickr