Girlguiding Scotland has quizzed 500 women and girls on a range of issues
New research has provided a snapshot of what it is like to be a girl in Scotland.
The Girls in Scotland 2020 study highlights the impact of gender inequality on girls and young women aged seven to 21. This is the second edition of the Girls in Scotland report, following the first publication in 2018.
Conducted by Childwise for Girlguiding Scotland, over 500 girls and young women in Scotland were surveyed between March and April 2020 on issues including every day pressures, gender stereotypes, representation in the media and politics, community safety, the environment and career choices.
The findings show that appearance pressures continue to affect girls’ confidence and wellbeing, with many turning to apps and filters to feel accepted online. Notably, 51% of girls aged 11-21 said they have seen adverts online which pressured them to look different, with this pressure getting worse as girls get older - 63% for those over 16. The majority of girls aged 11-21 (68%) also said they feel newspapers, magazines and influencers on social media need to do more to stop reinforcing gender stereotypes.
While girls and young women have a keen interest in politics, 62% feel there should be more opportunities for young people to get involved. 73% of 11-21 year olds also said that more needs to be done to make politics equal for men and women.
More than a third of girls and young women said that they struggled to be themselves and many said they don’t feel accepted by others. The feeling of not being accepted increases drastically as girls get older – from 8% of girls aged 7-10 to 40% of those over 16.
Of particular concern is how girls and young women feel about their personal safety in their communities. Over half said they were worried about going outside in the dark and 37% said they’re often stared at or receive unwanted attention.
The environment is also on girls minds. 95% said they feel their lives are affected by climate change and a fifth have taken action on this issue. Older girls and young women aged 11-21 feel there should be more education about environmentally-friendly period products (78%), and half of 16-21 year olds said they try to buy clothes that are recycled or second-hand.
Many girls also said that gender stereotypes persist in school. Even girls as young as 7-10 believe there are certain subjects or careers they’re expected to do because they’re a girl (35%). Worryingly, 26% said they don’t or didn’t have many or any opportunities at school, college or university to explore careers traditionally targeted at men, such as engineering and manual jobs.
Girlguiding Scotland Speak Out champion, Katie Young, said: “The new Girls in Scotland 2020 report gives girls and young women an opportunity to voice their concerns about the things they want to change. There are encouraging signs that girls are determined to stand up for themselves and make their voices heard, but girls recognise we are a long way from equality. I’m proud to be part of Girlguiding Scotland which empowers girls and young women by giving them the tools to challenge issues head on, and works towards building an equal future for us all."
Speaking about the new report, Moira McKenna, Girlguiding Scotland chief commissioner, added: “Girls and young women continue to face a whole host of challenges, many of which have been exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic. Girlguiding Scotland gives girls a voice and they’ve told us how they feel – they want equality, they want action on climate change, they want to feel safe and be heard. Our volunteers give girls a platform to share their views, develop confidence and reach their full potential, and many have been moving to running virtual sessions over lockdown. We’re always looking for more girls and adults to join us so if you want to make a difference to the lives of girls and young women in Scotland there’s a place for you.”
With around 45,000 young members across the country, Girlguiding Scotland is committed to supporting girls to speak out on the issues affecting their lives. Last month, the charity’s Speak Out champions launched their Media Mindful campaign to end sexism and negative gender stereotypes in the media.