Life is tougher if you’re female.
Women get paid less for equal work; have fewer seats on company boards; are less represented in parliament; and face harassment, violence, and abuse at home, in work, and when travelling between the two.
And a new study released on Wednesday confirmed that women are more aware than ever that the odds are stacked against them — for now.
But struggle begets resistance, and women and girls are fighting back.
Every year for the last decade, Girlguiding — the leading charity for girls and women in the UK — has published its Girls’ Attitudes Survey: a snapshot into the lives of young women all over the UK.
The survey questions 1,903 women aged 7 to 21 — and 2018’s incarnation found that almost half (47%) identify as feminists, an increase of over a third (35%) from 2013.
Feminism can mean different things to different people, but when Girlguiding asked those surveyed, it appears that one definition kept popping up: equality.
We're really proud to celebrate 10 years of the #GirlsAttitudes Survey. For 10 years we've been asking girls what's important to them so we can support them to make change on the issues they care about. Read the 2018 report on our website… https://t.co/Op87AeoVospic.twitter.com/p56SuuVPam— Girlguiding (@Girlguiding) September 19, 2018
One young woman described feminism as “equal rights and opportunities between men and women in the workplace, education, and society", according to the BBC. Another said it meant “a person who strongly believes in gender equality and that everyone no matter their background should be treated equally."
Feminism is back in business — and the report confirmed that we look to the future with fiercely renewed strength.
- Boldness: 36% of girls aged 11 to 21 have spoken out on an issue they care about, compared to 28% in 2011.
- Frankness: Girls are more likely to have friends who live with mental health issues (71%, up from 62% in 2015), but are also more likely to talk about it — 50% said it was being discussed more in schools, an increase from 44% in 2015.
- Genius: 41% of those between 7 and 10 years old enjoy subjects like sciences, maths, and technology. It’s a huge jump from 26% in 2016.
- Leadership: 53% of girls now want to be leaders in their workplace, up from 42% in 2016.
But there are barriers that hold girls back. Although more are speaking out, slightly fewer believe that it can make a difference than seven years ago.
“When asked why they didn’t speak up, girls cited concerns about how they could do so, lack of confidence, fear of not being taken seriously, and worries about the negative consequences of speaking out,” the report stated.
📢📢📢 The brand new @Girlguiding Girls' Attitudes Survey launches today! Do you ever wonder how girls and young women feel about their everyday lives and the challenges they face? Read the full 2018 report ➡️ https://t.co/MaLJL0moE2pic.twitter.com/QR8oZ4QSNm— Girlguiding Scotland (@GirlguidingScot) September 19, 2018
“Girls’ lives would be better if we told girls that they can do anything,” one respondent said to the survey. “One thing that would improve girls’ lives is if they had the chance to be heard and be taken seriously,” said another.
The survey results suggested that trends like this are a reaction to a threatening world.
More than half aged 13 to 21 felt unsafe when walking home alone, while just 25% of girls described themselves as “very happy,” a decrease from 41% in 2009. Many blamed stress from school examinations and pressure from social media. It’s perhaps indicative of how young people form relationships now that just 21% make friends at each other’s houses, contrasted with 69% in 2009.
"It might mean they are more aware of [sexism] in the media, online and in public — the result of campaigns like #MeToo and #TimesUp,” said researchers. "However, it is also possible it may reflect an increase in the scale of sexism for girls."
“The message could not be clearer from girls and young women about the seriousness of the issues they’re facing daily and the negative impact on their lives,” said Amanda Medler, Girlguiding’s chief guide. “Girls need to know when they speak out they will be heard.”
“So now is the time for action, to listen to girls and respond, and for all organisations, government, schools, and parents to work together to improve the lives of all girls and young women,” she added.
Previous Girlguiding campaigns include a voting drive — linked to a report on the impact of sexism in the media — and the launch of a period poverty badge, among others linked to equality, to press educational institutions to provide free sanitary products to students.