Girls aged 7 feel pressure to conform to gender roles at school

Nearly half of girls say that their behaviour in lessons is affected by gender stereotypes

Adi Bloom

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Girls face relentless pressure from gender stereotypes on a daily basis, affecting how much they participate in class, how much exercise they do and how they behave with their peers.

Even girls as young as 7 say that the constant barrage of gender stereotypes affects their ability to say what they think.

A survey of more than 1,900 girls and young women between the ages of 7 and 21, conducted by the charity Girlguiding, reveals that pressure from social media, TV, newspapers, friends, teachers and parents all affect how they think and act.

Nearly half – 47 per cent – of girls interviewed said that gender stereotypes affected how much they participated in lessons. And 51 per cent said that these stereotypes also affect how they behave with their peers.

'Denied a basic right'

More than half (57 per cent) of those surveyed said that stereotypes affected what they wore.

And 55 per cent said that gender stereotypes affect their ability to say what they think.

In addition, 51 per cent said that their decisions about what sport or exercise to take part in were affected by stereotypes.

Sophie Wallace, a member of Girlguiding’s advocate panel, said: “These statistics are shocking. Girls and young women are being denied a basic right, because of their gender.”

'Angry'

Secondary aged respondents said that they were most commonly confronted by gender stereotypes on social media. Others said they came across them on TV, in film, and in magazines and newspapers.

But one in three – 32 per cent – said that they often hear or see gender stereotypes from their teachers.

Almost a quarter – 23 per cent – of respondents aged between 11 and 21 said that they felt less confident, as a result of hearing stereotypes about girls and women.

However, 27 per cent said that the stereotypes made them feel angry. More than a third – 36 per cent – said that it made them all the more determined to succeed.

Ms Wallace described this last finding as “a glimmer of hope”. But, she added: “There is still much more work to be done. Society needs to understand that gender stereotypes aren’t just harmful, but are a barrier to progress.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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