Girlguiding Scotland calls for action as research reveals pressures on girls’ wellbeing

• Girlguiding Scotland, Scotland’s leading charity for girls and young women, is calling on decision-makers to listen to girls as UK charity Girlguiding today (Thursday 24 September 2015) launches its 2015 Girls’ Attitudes Survey
• The findings reveal that the pressures of gender stereotyping, sexism and harassment are taking a toll on girls’ mental wellbeing
• In the past week, 81 per cent of girls aged 11 to 21 say they have experienced or seen some form of everyday sexism
• Two in five have read something in the media that trivialised violence or abuse towards women
• One in ten aged 17-21 has stayed in a relationship in which their partner has made them feel unsafe
• Half said that they don’t feel safe in parks on their own (51 per cent)
• Three quarters say anxiety about experiencing sexual harassment negatively affects their lives
• Fewer than one in ten girls aged seven to 10 would choose a career as an engineer (3 per cent), scientist (6 per cent) or lawyer (6 per cent)
• 82 per cent aged 11 to 21 say adults don’t recognise the pressure they are under
•BUT the report finds hopeful generation of young women keen to take positive action to seek change – with almost three quarters (73 per cent) taking part in at least one form of social action, such as community work or speaking out about an issue

Girlguiding Scotland is calling for politicians to listen to girls’ concerns as major new Girlguiding research reveals today (Thursday 24 September 2015) that UK girls are facing a maelstrom of pressures in their daily lives – posing a serious threat to their mental wellbeing and resilience.

The Girls’ Attitudes Survey – now in its seventh year – is the largest survey of its kind into the lives of girls and young women in the UK.

The 2015 report gives a stark insight into the many pressures girls face today – gender stereotyping, sexism and anxiety about mental wellbeing and fear of physical, emotional and sexual harm.

Girls feel that adults are out of touch with new threats to their wellbeing – leaving them struggling to find adequate support and the information they need to remain resilient in the face of increasing pressures. 82 per cent of girls aged 11 to 21 say adults don’t recognise the pressure they are under. But despite the challenges taking a negative toll on their lives, girls remain hopeful and determined to change the world for young women.

Girlguiding Scotland’s Chief Commissioner, Sue Walker, said:

“This survey reveals really worrying statistics about girls and young women’s wellbeing and the challenges they face – but also that they are determined to take action themselves to change things.

“Girlguiding Scotland empowers girls to speak out and make their voices heard, builds their confidence and gives them a space to be themselves.

“Together with decision makers, we need to listen to girls, look at the pressures they’re facing and work alongside them to tackle them.”

Katie Horsburgh, 15, a Girlguiding Scotland member from Edinburgh and a Girlguiding Advocate, said:

“Girlguiding’s research shows that girls today face big challenges – and that they are crying out for change.

“Every day they are faced with sexism, fear or harassment and the limiting nature of gender stereotypes.

“Girlguiding Scotland empowers girls and young women to approach these issues head-on and to fulfill their potential – we’re asking decision-makers to take up the challenge with us to make life better for girls.”

ENDS

Notes to editor:

1.The report’s key findings include:

Sexism and representation
Girls continue to face a barrage of everyday sexism in their daily lives – with most experiencing or seeing some form of sexism on a weekly basis.
In the past week:
– 81 per cent of girls aged 11 to 21 say they have experienced or seen some form of everyday sexism
– Three in five girls heard jokes or remarks that belittled or degraded girls and women first hand (58 per cent) and half heard the same in a film or on TV (53 per cent)
– Two in five (42 per cent) have read something in the media that trivialised violence or abuse towards women
– Two in five (39 per cent) had demeaning comments made to them about the way they look
– The majority see a link between stereotyped and sexist representations in the media and unfair treatment of women in society. The proportion of girls of girls and young women aged 11 to 21 who think women are not portrayed fairly in the media has almost doubled since 2010, rising from 27 per cent to 48 per cent

Violence against women and girls
– Three quarters of girls aged 11 to 21 (75 per cent) say anxiety about experiencing sexual harassment negatively affects their lives in some way – from what they wear and where they go to how they feel about their bodies
– When it comes to intimate relationships, worryingly two in three young women aged agree that popular culture tells boys that they are entitled to coerce or abuse their girlfriends (67 per cent)
– A significant minority of young women aged 17 to 21 (13 per cent) say that a boy/girlfriend has made them feel frightened or threatened, with one in ten staying in a relationship in which their partner has made them feel unsafe (11 per cent)

Gender stereotypes and aspirations
– The report finds that gender stereotypes are holding sway over girls as young as seven, skewing their view of what girls and boys can achieve.
– Girls aged 7-10 associate the character traits ‘caring’, ‘helpful’ and ‘shy’ much more with themselves than boys.
– But they associate the words ‘strong’, ‘brave’ and ‘adventurous’ much more with boys than girls
– Worryingly, these ingrained stereotypes seem to be influencing girls’ career aspirations from a young age. Fewer than one in ten girls aged 7 to 10 would chose a career as an engineer (3 per cent), scientist (6 per cent) or lawyer (6 per cent)
– As girls grow up and enter the crowded job market they feel under pressure to conform to outdated stereotypes to help their careers
– Two in five young women aged 17 to 21 feel under pressure to stay slim in order to have a better chance at job interviews (44 per cent), while one in four feel they have to wear high heels (27 per cent) or wear a lot of make-up (25 per cent) to help their chances

Community and social action
– Girls and young women feel increasingly insecure about their place in the local community – with over half saying that they don’t feel safe in parks on their own (51 per cent)
– Just 38 per cent think the UK is a good place to grow up and three in four girls say that they don’t think politicians listen to young people enough (77 per cent)
– Despite this, many girls and young women continue to be active in their communities with nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of girls and young women taking part in at least one form of social action or raising awareness of issues they care about.

Health and wellbeing
– Girls’ mental wellbeing worries start from as young as seven – escalating as they get older with two in five girls aged 11 to 21 needing to seek help with mental health concerns
– Self-harming emerges as the top health concern for girls aged 11-21, closely followed by smoking, mental illness, depression and eating disorders. In 2010, girls’ top three health concerns were binge drinking, smoking and drug abuse
– Sixty two per cent of girls aged 11 to 21 know a girl their age who has experienced a mental health problem, while almost half of girls aged 17 to 21 (46 per cent) have personally needed help with their mental health

2. Girls’ Attitudes 2015 is a survey of 1,574 girls and young women aged between 7 and 21 who were asked about their attitudes on a range of issues from health and wellbeing to relationships and careers. The full report is available at http://new.girlguiding.org.uk/latest-updates/making-a-difference/girls-attitudes-survey-2015.
3. A panel of young women from within Girlguiding works with the project team to develop the survey and to comment on its findings. Those surveyed form a representative sample across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and are not restricted to those involved in guiding.
4. Research was conducted by leading research specialists on children and young people Childwise and fieldwork took place from March to May 2015.
5. The questionnaire was adapted to be suitable for different age groups (7-11, 11-16, 16-21), with some core questions asked of all groups.
6. Girlguiding Scotland is Scotland’s leading charity for girls and young women, with 50,000 young members. We build girls’ confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good. We give them a space to have fun. Find out more at www.girlguidingscotland.org.uk.
7. Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, with 559,996 members. Thanks to the dedication and support of 100,000 amazing volunteers, we are active in every part of the UK, giving girls and young women a space where they can be themselves, have fun, build brilliant friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference to their lives and their communities. We build girls’ confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good. We give them a space to have fun. We run Rainbows (5-7 years), Brownies (7-10 years), Guides (10-14 years) and The Senior Section (14-25 years). Registered Charity No. 306016. Find out more at www.girlguiding.org.uk.