Reality check: What girls are saying about gender inequality

“I think it was early elementary [school] when I was told that I could not be as good at math as the boys.” – Emily, Girl Guide National Youth Council member

Whether they’re in elementary school or high school, gender inequality is definitely a very real part of girls’ lives. How do we know? We went to the ultimate experts – girls themselves. What girls told us was revealing, but maybe not all that surprising. The uncomfortable truth is that lagging gender equality might just be fencing girls in.

As Canada marks its first ever Gender Equality Week , we’re taking a look at how the equality equation is working out for Canadian girls. After all, listening to what’s happening in girls’ lives is something we do every day at Girl Guides of Canada. 


While young people have unique experiences with gender inequality – in the classroom, on the sports field, in their part-time jobs and beyond – we know girls’ voices often go unheard. That’s why we recently partnered with Ipsos in commissioning a nationwide survey to ask young people about gender equality and uncover the reality.  Here’s what girls ages 12-17 told us:

  • 64% of girls are concerned about gender inequality today
  • Looking ahead to when they’re 25 years old, girls are worried about how they’ll be treated as adults – because of their gender:
    • 55% of girls are concerned they’ll be treated unequally or unfairly at work because of their gender
    • 47% of girls are concerned that they’ll be treated unequally or unfairly in the interests or activities they pursue because of their gender
    • 42% of girls are concerned that they’ll be treated unequally or unfairly by the public in general because of their gender

Overall, the survey showed that girls are more concerned than boys about gender equality – both now and in the future.

But how is gender equality really working out for girls?

Beyond the disheartening reality of what the numbers reveal, members of our National Youth Council shared some of their own personal experiences:
“I observe inequality between men/boys and women/girls in society daily. Whether it is in the media or at school, etc., I feel that the inequality barriers facing girls and women are affecting their abilities to live up to their full potential and achieve their dreams.” – Sophie, National Youth Council member

“The fight for more female representation in different career fields, school, politics, and home is not nearly over. Men still hold more power and make more money. There is especially an issue in inequality between men and POC [people of colour], LGTBQ+, and non-able bodied people.” – Anonymous, National Youth Council member

It’s clear girls not only feel the impact of inequity in their daily lives but are also discouraged about the inequities they’ll face in their futures. Let’s consider the consequences of what this means. Girls’ aspirations might change, they might dial back their ambitions – simply because of what they’ll face because of their gender.

Girls empowering girls – it’s a powerful thing

All of this reinforces the importance for girl-driven spaces – for the kind of gender-specific programming that addresses girls’ needs, facilitated by women mentors in an all-girls space like Guiding where every leadership opportunity is open to girls. Girls in Guiding cheer each other on as they work towards their goals. They listen to each other, inspire and empower each other – knowing they won’t be judged and don’t have to hold back.

“I stand for gender equality and believe women’s rights are important.” – Caitriona, National Youth Council member

The good news is there’s resilience and resistance among girls today. They’re pursuing their interests and still dreaming about their future. They’re fierce and engaged in standing up for what they believe in – a world where simply being a girl won’t hold them back.

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