Sexism affecting 'almost every area' of life for girls and young women in Britain

Published 02 December 2013  |  
(Photo: Lucasbite)

A report released by Girlguiding UK reveals the shocking extent of sexism and its effect on young women, with 75 per cent of girls questioned saying that it affected "almost every area of their lives".

Entitled Equality for Girls, the report was compiled following a survey of over 1,200 girls and young women aged between seven and 21, and contains some unsettling statistics.

Girlguiding UK said they were "surprised and troubled" by the findings.

"We worry that issues that should only be read about in our history books are still commonplace. There is a danger that the freedoms and protections women have gained are being abandoned," the organisation says in the foreward.

The majority of girls and young women report experiencing sexual harassment, with 70 per cent of 13-year-olds and 80 per cent of those aged 19 to 21.

The nature of the harassment included sexual jokes or taunts, being shouted at on the street, unwanted attention or touching and stalking.

Over 75 per cent said they found this behaviour threatening if they were alone, and half said they did not have enough support to deal with the situations when they arose.

Issues of the female body were also raised, with 87 per cent of those questioned believing women are judged on their appearance rather than their intelligence or ability.

"Girls' experience today encompasses unprecedented levels of personal and public/media scrutiny over body shape, size and overall looks," the report says, revealing that one in five primary school age girls say they have been on a diet, and a huge 71% of all girls asked said they would like to lose weight.

Many girls also expressed concern about gender equality in the workplace. Although 55 per cent say they hope to reach the top of their chosen profession, 46 per cent revealed a fear that having children could damage their careers and 43 per cent worry that employers prefer hiring men.

In response to the report, Kat Banyard, author of 'The Equality Illusion' has called feminism "an unfinished revolution".

"It remains one of the most important social justice movements of our age," she said.

MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas commented that "women have come a long way in the last 100 years, but we still face a lot of challenges".

"There are still three times as many men and women in Parliament," she noted.

Although Girlguiding UK has described the results of the survey as "disturbing", Chief Executive Julie Bentley has said that they also reveal "a highly ambitious generation of girls and youth women" who are "resilient and positive...and are full of hope for a rewarding, equal future".

The organisation has reaffirmed its commitment to working towards gender equality and has announced plans to meet with political leaders in 2015 to discuss the report.

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