Girlguiding Scotland members are calling for change after new research shows sexist coverage is putting girls off politics. The charity is calling for media to:

  1. Stop talking about politicians’ appearances and focus on their ‘opinions not pins’
  2. Include young women in debates and ensure their views are represented in political coverage
  3. Recognise the diversity of young women’s voices including those who are too young to vote now but will still be affected by the decisions made by government
  • The call has received backing from female politicians and campaigners including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour Inequalities Spokesperson Monica Lennon and Talat Yaqoob, Chair of the Women 50:50 Campaign
  • The calls follow new research by Girlguiding which shows over two fifths (41%) of girls (aged 9 to 16) think there has been an increase in sexist views of women and girls in the media in the last six months – against a backdrop of the American elections and Brexit debates
  • Nearly two thirds (62%) said sexist coverage negatively effects young people’s views of girls and young women

As reporting of the General Election swings into action, Girlguiding Scotland is calling for action after new research raised concerns media sexism is putting girls off politics.

Girlguiding Scotland, the leading charity for girls and young women in Scotland is calling for action following concerns sexist coverage of female politicians is leaving girls feeling side-lined from the political conversation.

Research by Girlguiding revealed two fifths (41%) of girls age 9 to 16 across the UK think there has been a rise in media sexism in the last six months. While Girlguiding Scotland members welcomed the rise of high-profile female leaders including female Prime Minister Theresa May and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, girls warned sexist attitudes risked putting them off politics.

However, at a time when they should be feeling more engaged in politics than ever, girls say outdated and sexist treatment of female politicians in the press is making them feel excluded from the political conversation. Over a third (39%) of girls who reported seeing an increase in media sexism said it has knocked their confidence.

The infamous ‘Legs-it’ headline, editorial features detailing politicians’ outfits and articles questioning their motherhood choices are clear examples of this.

Now, with the General Election around the corner, Girlguiding Scotland is calling for media to engage girls on in the conversation, recognise diversity and represent female candidates fairly, focusing on their policies and manifestos, not their pointy heels and make-up

The call has won the backing of female politicians and campaigners across Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “These figures must serve as a wake-up call to people of all parties and all those involved in covering politics.

“It is unacceptable that women and girls continue to face sexist attitudes that are putting them off playing a full role in our society and it is incumbent on all of us to work to change that.

“That doesn’t just mean an end to sexist attitudes but an end to the focus on appearances and family life and to the macho aggressive language that is used far too often in politics.

“I want to see as many young women and girls involved in politics as possible and as First Minister I know I have a responsibility to lead by example.  I want to send a strong message to all girls and young women in Scotland – that if you work hard, the sky is the limit, and there should be no platform off limits to any young girl.”

Monica Lennon, Inequalities Spokesperson for Scottish Labour, added: 

“From media coverage which is more concerned about a woman’s shoes than her ideas & accomplishments, to abuse over social media – it’s no wonder that so many girls and young women are reporting they might think twice about using their voice or taking the lead in political conversations.

“It’s concerning to learn that sexist coverage of female leaders is sending girls the message that their views won’t be taken seriously and potentially putting a generation of girls off politics.

“Now more than ever, it’s vital that girls and young women feel they have a place in the conversation and the power to make their voices heard at every level of government.

“That’s why campaigns like Women 50:50 are so important, to ensure that we get more women into politics and provide positive female role models to young women.”

Talat Yaqoob, Chair of the Women 50:50 campaign for equal representation, added: “It’s deeply concerning to hear girls say media sexism is denting their confidence and making them feel like politics is off-limits.

With women still making up just 35 per cent of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament and 29 per cent of MPs at Westminster we need real action to hold sexism in media to account and ensure the opinions of women politicians make the news, not their wardrobes or bodies.”

Girlguiding Scotland’s young members have backed the call for change.

Hannah Brisbane, 20, a member of Girlguiding Scotland’s Senior Section, from Glasgow said: “Now should be a really exciting time for girls to get involved in politics and make their voices heard but sexist coverage for female leaders and politicians is leaving us feeling side-lined from the conversation.

“As a politics student the kind of everyday sexism towards female leaders definitely gives me second thoughts about pursuing a career in politics if my looks are going to be considered the most important thing about me.”

Katie Horsburgh, 16, from Edinburgh, added: “There are so many issues affecting girls and young women lives, so it’s important we make our voices heard. But every time the media choose to focus on what a women looks like or what she’s wearing – instead of her policies and ideas – it sends girls a message that politics isn’t a space where we can have our voices heard and the issues we care about taken seriously.”

Girlguiding Scotland, the leading charity for girls and young women in Scotland, is committed to empowering girls to speak out on the issues that matter to them and will be running a campaign to encourage young women to register to vote and use their voice on 8 June.