Girls as young as 7 affected by gender inequality

Brownies enjoying an experiment (002)

​Pressure is increasing on very young girls to perform stereotypical roles in society  

21st September 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Shocking new research shows that pressure from gender stereotypes is causing girls as young as seven to change their behaviour.

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.

The most common place young women see gender stereotypes perpetuated is on social media, with two thirds aged 11-21 saying they are often confronted with them.

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 of girls and young women aged 11-21 say they feel less confident as a result of gender stereotypes while one in five say they feel anxious about their future and 27% say they feel angry.

Sixteen-year-old Girlguide Catherine said: “We're so used to seeing gender stereotypes in our everyday lives that we’re at risk becoming blind to the harm they cause but these figures should be a wake-up call to everyone.

“When more than half of girls age 7 to 21 say they feel like they can’t say what they think, wear what they want or behave in a way that’s true to themselves because of the pressure to conform to gender stereotypes.

“It’s clear there’s still a long way to go to ensuring all girls feel free to make their voices heard and achieve their full potential.”

It’s clear there’s still a long way to go to ensuring all girls feel free to make their voices heard - Catherine

Young members of Girlguiding Scotland - together with Girlguiding members in England and Wales - have been campaigning to ensure sexism and gender stereotypes are tackled from an early age.

Over the last year the charity has been calling for a zero tolerance to gender-based bullying and sexual harassment in schools and calling for updated personal and social education in all Scottish schools covering topics including gender equality, healthy relationships, consent, and online safety.

Katie, 19, a Girlguiding Scotland spokesperson, added: “It’s disheartening to see that despite the progress we’ve made in so many areas, girls and young women still feel the pressure of gender stereotypes in their everyday lives.

“From my own experience as a girl pursuing a career, I know how outdated ideas of what girls should and shouldn’t do – combined with a lack of female role models in – can make girls question themselves.”