Girls in the North of England are less happy and feel the least safe
Girlguiding launches its 14th Girls’ Attitudes Survey
- Nearly a quarter of girls and young women (22%) aged 11-16 in the North of England say the fear of sexual harassment holds them back at school, compared to 16% in London and the South
- Over a quarter (26%) of girls and young women in the North say gender stereotypes hold them back at school, compared to 18% in London and the South
- Girls and young women in the North (51%) are more likely to feel unsafe in public compared to those in London and the South (41%)
- Girlguiding is calling for the new UK government and opposition parties to address these regional disparities by ensuring levelling up is meaningful for girls and young women
Girlguiding, the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, today launches its 14th Girls’ Attitudes Survey, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, revealing the stark regional differences in girls’ and young women’s happiness, perceived safety, and outlook on life.
Findings from the flagship study of 3000 girls and young women aged 7 to 21 shows girls in the North of England are significantly less happy with their lives than those in London and the South with 63% reporting they want to change many things in their lives compared to 56%.
The picture is even starker when it comes to feeling safe at school, with around 1 in 5 (19%) girls and young women aged 11 to 21 revealing they don’t feel safe in school across the UK. Those in the North feel the least safe at school (22%) compared to 19% in the Midlands and 16% in London and the South. Girls and young women of colour aged 11 to 16 are less likely than girls and young women who are white, to feel safe at school (65% compared to 70%).
Concerningly, 22% of girls and young women aged 11 to 16 in the North say the fear of sexual harassment holds them back at school (compared to 17% in the Midlands and London and the South). This number is higher for those living in areas of high deprivation (16% compared to 9% living in areas of low deprivation).
Findings also show that over half (51%) of girls and young women in the North of England feel unsafe in public compared to 41% in the South.
This year’s survey revealed, girls and young women also continue to experience sexism and unfair treatment in all areas of their lives, including online, whilst gender stereotypes continue to hold girls back. In 2022 more girls and young women aged 11 to 21 are seeing or experiencing sexism in their daily lives at school, college, university or work (66%) compared to 58% in 2018.
We asked girls and young women aged 11-21 to identify places where they saw, or experienced sexism:
- 80% said they saw or experienced it online and on social media
- 73% said they saw or experienced it in the media
- 68% said they saw or experienced it in public places
- 66% said they saw or experienced it at school/college/university
- 63% said they saw or experienced it in politics
- 58% said they saw or experienced it in professional sport
As girls get older, they see and experience sexism in public places more (78% of young women aged 17-to-21 compared to 57% of 11-to-16-year old's). For girls and young women who identify as LGBTQ+ this is even higher (79% compared to 65%).
The research also indicates a significant regional difference in gender equality, with 35% of girls and young women in the North of England believing gender equality has got worse as a result of the pandemic, compared to 26% of girls and young women in London and the South. Beliefs about decreasing gender equality were also higher for girls and young women living in areas of high deprivation (33% thought it had got worse in the last year compared to 25% in areas of low deprivation).
Following the striking regional differences faced by girls’ and young women uncovered by the research, Girlguiding is calling on the new UK government to make levelling up meaningful for girls and young women by prioritising their safety and wellbeing in education, health and public spaces, including online.
Girlguiding Advocate, Erin, aged 20, said: “Girlguiding’s flagship research finds the regional inequalities girls and young women face in their sense of safety, their mental health and their confidence are stark. However, I am proud that we are becoming more empowered to challenge this discrimination.
“As a Girlguiding advocate I want to see the new government read these statistics with caution and take significant action to end regional inequalities faced by girls and young women in our post-pandemic world. Levelling up is meaningless to us unless it includes this action.”
Girlguiding Chief Executive Angela Salt OBE said: “It is shocking how many girls and young women, some as young as 11 years old, don’t feel safe at school, on social media or out in public. Our research shows just how common discrimination, stereotyping and sexism is in our society and how unsurprisingly this creates barriers to happiness, confidence, and success. Coupled with the disparities in girls’ experiences across the country, it is vital we act now to address these issues to ensure every girl and young woman is provided with the opportunities to fulfil their potential, no matter where they live.”
Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said: "As girls and young women navigate this uncertain period of recovery, the support that Girlguiding provides has never been more vital. I'm delighted that funds raised by players of People's Postcode Lottery enables Girlguiding to empower individuals to speak out on important issues and continues to provide a happy, safe and stimulating environment for thousands of girls to recognise their potential."
Girlguiding has a crucial role to play in bringing about positive change for girls across the UK. With the help of its dedicated volunteers and through its innovative peer education program, core programme and wellbeing and resilience tools, the charity continues to provide support to girls and young women, providing an empowering environment to create change for themselves and future generations.