Gender stereotypes impacting behaviour of girls as young as seven

Girlguiding's 2017 Girls' Attitudes Survey reveals girl are encountering gender stereotypes in all areas of their lives

Research released today by Girlguiding reveals girls and young women are encountering gender stereotypes in all areas of their lives - online, on TV, in films, newspapers, from their peers, parents and teachers - causing them to change their behaviour because of the pressure they feel to be or act a certain way.

The shocking findings from Girlguiding’s Girls’ Attitudes Survey highlights how girls and young women face relentless pressure from seeing and hearing gender stereotypes on a daily basis, with girls as young as seven saying these stereotypes affect their ability to say what they think.

  • 55% of girls and young women aged 7-21 say the pressures of gender stereotypes affect their ability to say what they think.
  • 57% of 7-21-year-old girls and young women say the pressures of gender stereotypes affect what they wear.
  • Half of girls and young women (51%) aged 7-21 say gender stereotypes affect how they behave with their peers.
  • 51% of 7-21-year-old girls and young women say gender stereotypes affect what sport and exercise they do.
  • Nearly one in two (47%) girls and young women aged 7-21 say gender stereotypes affect how much they participate in class.

The most common place young women see gender stereotypes perpetuated is on social media, with two thirds (65%) aged 11-21 saying they are often confronted with them, while 64% say they often see or hear them on TV, in films, magazines and newspapers. The same age group also says they often see or hear gender stereotypes from boys (58%), girls (44%), teachers (33%), parents (32%) and on YouTube (24%).

Being exposed to these gender stereotypes is not only causing girls to change how they behave but also impacting significantly on how they feel. A quarter (23%) of girls and young women aged 11-21 say they feel less confident as a result of gender stereotypes while one in five (19%) say they feel anxious about their future and 27% say they feel angry. A considerable number feel driven to achieve despite these gender stereotypes, with one in three (36%) saying they are more determined to succeed.

Sophie Wallace, a member of Girlguiding’s Advocate Panel, said:

“While there are glimmers of hope, these statistics are still shocking. Over half of girls aged 7-21 say that gender stereotypes affect their ability to say what they think and this is disgraceful. This means girls and young women are being denied a basic right because of their gender. However, there are reasons to be hopeful as one in three girls say they are more determined to succeed, despite the gender stereotype pressures. But there is still much more work to be done. Society needs to understand that gender stereotypes aren’t just harmful but a barrier to progress.”

From experiences and skills gained throughout Girlguiding, in Rainbows (5-7), Brownies (7-10), Guides (10-14) and The Senior Section (14-25), girls are standing up to gender stereotypes, whether they’re taking part in activities such as survival skills, sport or science experiments, involved in peer education sessions or speaking out on the issues which are important to them.

Earlier this year girls had their say when asked what badges they would like to see included as part of the revamp of Girlguiding’s programme of activities, which will be launched in 2018. Suggestions included stereotype busting ideas such as coding and app design.

The results of this survey and the issues raised will be used to inform and develop a new resource for Girlguiding’s Peer Education Programme. In the past, the survey provided information used to develop Think Resilient which helps girls find positive ways of dealing with pressures and challenges in their lives.

In March this year Girlguiding welcomed the announcement that Relationships and Sex Education would be made compulsory in all schools in England, having campaigned for it for the last three years, and is now calling for clear guidance for schools to ensure issues including healthy relationships, online safety and sexual consent are covered.

The charity is also speaking out about the need for gender equality to be covered in Personal, Social and Health Education lessons.

Girlguiding is calling on the public to get involved by sharing how they, or the girls and young women in their lives, are standing up to gender stereotypes by joining an online campaign to show girls can do anything. Join in on social media #GirlsAttitudes

The Girls’ Attitudes Survey, the largest piece of research of girls and young women in the UK, is conducted annually to highlight the many pressures impacting on girls’ lives, from feeling as though they have to live the perfect life online to their experiences of sexist online abuse.

A total of 1,906 girls and young women aged between 7 and 21 took part in the 2017 survey from the across the UK, from both inside and outside of guiding.

View the full Girls' Attitudes Survey

View the full Girls' Attitudes Survey

Read the full Girls' Attitudes Survey