More than a third of girls say that they have witnessed sex discrimination among pupils at school, while the same number of boys say that they do not believe that a gender gap exists today, new research reveals.
A survey found that 36 per cent of girls say that they have witnessed sex discrimination in the classroom and almost a quarter – 24 per cent – of girls believe that boys dominate classroom discussions.
The report, compiled by the charity Young Enterprise, also reveals that there are still significant differences between girls’ and boys’ expectations of working life.
Of the 1,000 16-18-year-olds questioned, 71 per cent of girls said that they expected to earn less than £20,000 a year in their first job. By contrast, only 52 per cent of boys expected to earn below £20,000.
In addition, 28 per cent of boys said that they would be earning more than £25,000 in their first job – more than twice the 13 per cent of girls who said the same thing.
And, while 57 per cent of boys believe that they will be more financially successful than their parents, only 47 per cent of girls predicted the same for themselves.
The report states: “These findings paint a worrying picture of how gender is determining levels of confidence in the classroom and beyond. It must be addressed if we wish to have a new generation of confident female business leaders and entrepreneurs in the workplace.”
Despite this, boys remain in denial of any gender distinctions: 34 per cent insist that no gap between the sexes exists. Nineteen per cent of girls say the same thing.
The report argues that this problem, though deep-seated, can be resolved relatively simply. Its authors call on schools to offer character education from the start of primary school onwards.
“There should be a planned programme of study for how schools will develop students’ character over the course of their 14 years in education,” it states.
Schools should also team up with local businesses run by women, in order to provide pupils with access to female business leaders and entrepreneurs.
And schools and teachers should encourage more girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and support them once they do so.
Michael Mercieca, chief executive of Young Enterprise, said: “Failure to improve the proportion of women entering these important industries will starve businesses of the skills they need, having a serious impact on our economy.
“Unless we empower the next generation of women through education and training, Britain will continue to oversee a divided society.”