70 per cent of girls say sexism is so widespread it affects every aspect of their lives

The new findings come from the Girl Guides’ attitude survey

Remember ‘Brownies’ and ‘Guides’, those youth organisations that a couple of girls in your primary school would be involved in? Although forgotten completely by the time we go to uni, it turns out that the charity releases a survey about young girls and women’s attitudes every year, and the results show some heartbreaking stuff.

The guide states that it “takes a snapshot of what girls and young women think on a wide range of issues”, getting answers on body confidence, everyday sexism, personal safety, social media, emotional and mental wellbeing, education and aspirations, from girls aged 7 – 21. The girls were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds (but admittedly a disappointing 65 per cent white), and even breaks down the actions that girls think are needed to improve the issues covered.

A lot of the statistics are worse than you might expect, and the fact that the survey got such saddening answers from girls as young as seven is striking.

Body confidence

The main statistic brought to light from this section was that 47 per cent of girls aged 11-21 say that the way they look holds them back most of the time. The guide points out, “the reality is that girls’ lives are restricted by fear of judgement and how they are perceived by others”. It’s unthinkable that these kind of worries affect girls from such a young age. Overall, girls of all ages felt ashamed about how they look, and a massive 61 per cent of 17-21 year old girls feel like they need to be perfect.

75 per cent of girls aged 11-21 agreed that women are judged more on their appearance than their ability, and 54 per cent of 7-1o year old girls think that people need to stop judging girls on what they look like.

Everyday sexism

A massive 70 per cent of girls aged 11-21 said that sexism is so widespread that it affects most areas of their lives.

Just let that sink in.


32 per cent of girls aged 11-21 said that they feel unsafe when they are out on their own ‘most of the time’, while 67 per cent said that they change their behaviour to avoid feeling unsafe.

A massive three quarters of those surveyed agreed that girls are judged harshly for sexual behaviour that is seen as acceptable for boys.

Social media

Interestingly half of the girls the survey spoke to thought that sexism is worse online than offline, and encouragingly only 21 per cent of girls have had sexist comments made to them online. Yeah, when you’re pleased it’s “only” 21 per cent, you know something needs to change.

One of the most uncomfortable statistics was found in this section, with 41 per cent of girls aged 17-21 reporting they’ve had an embarrassing photo of them shared online without consent. The survey isn’t clear on whether these pictures were explicit or just ’embarrassing’ though.


Subject stereotypes are still a problem, with over half of girls reporting that STEM degrees still give off the image that they’re only for boys. A further 52 per cent of girls felt that women’s role in history wasn’t fairly represented.

With consent classes starting up again, it’s hardly shocking, but still depressing, that only 44 per cent of girls aged 13-21 think that other people their age clearly understand consent, and only 54 per cent agreed that people their aged understand that consent is about getting and giving consent.

The overall results about consent clearly show that more education about the concept is needed in schools, and from a young age.


69 per cent of girls aged 7-21 feel like they aren’t good enough, and over half of the girls who did the survey mentioned that they wouldn’t seek help for stress because they think girls are just expected to cope with so many pressures.

Only 27 per cent of girls aged 7-21 said that they are ‘very happy’.

Aspirations and Leadership

It’s finally time for an uplifting statistic, because believe us, there aren’t many in there: 76 per cent of girls aged 7-10 feel encouraged when they see a woman doing a job they want to do.

But, the results about gender equality at work were also notable, for the wrong reasons. Under ‘girls and boys have the same chance of being successful in their future jobs’, the percentage of agreement dropped dramatically from 86 per cent of 7-10 year olds, to 35 per cent of 17-21 year olds. It appears that, sadly, as girls get older and become more aware of sexism, their hope for the future lessens.

It’s studies like this that need more coverage in the media and in the places they investigate, like schools, if gender equality is to improve at all. Just a handful of headteachers reading this one PDF could make such a change to the lives of young girls early, to stop their hopes being lost as they get older.