How gender inequality impacts girls – as early as age 10

Every girl should have an equal start.  The chance at a fair race in whatever path she chooses. The opportunity to thrive. This is what we’re all about at Girl Guides – but it’s also what today, International Day of the Girl, is about, too!

We live in an awesome time: girls are taking the lead, eager to make change, and creating a more inclusive world. We see this every day in Guiding – a place where girls cheer each other on as they set their own goals and make their mark in the world around them. At the same time, it’s important to remember that too many girls are still held back by unequal treatment and unfair expectations about what it means to be a girl.

To learn more about young people’s experiences with inequality, GGC partnered with Ipsos this fall to commission a nationwide survey of teens. Here’s what teens, ages 12-17, told us:

  • Two in three (65%) teens agree there is currently an inequality between girls and boys in Canada – in terms of social, economic and/or political rights.
  • For girls who say they have been personally impacted by gender inequality, more than half (54%) say they first noticed gender inequality in their lives between the ages of 10 and 13.

Clearly, young people are seeing inequality in action – and this inequality is impacting girls sooner than you might think.

Girls, in their own words
It can be hard for adults to imagine how girls as young as 10 would face gender inequality in society – so we asked girls about it. In their own words, girls in our survey said:

They feel dismissed or overshadowed.

  • “I have felt that my opinions aren’t often taken as seriously because I am not a boy.”
  • “In sports and sometimes in mixed groups… the guys are louder so it is harder to express yourself.”

They face negative stereotypes that limit their potential.

  • “I had people pre-judge me when I walked into a woodshop class. They thought I wouldn’t be able to do any of the work.”
  • “Many boys in my school have said they can do sports better than girls and they challenge us to do athletic activities and always say they will obviously win because they are boys and we are girls.” 

They’re held to different rules.  

  • “My brothers are allowed to stay out later than me because, ‘You’re a girl. It’s not safe to be out after dark.’”
  • “I got in trouble for pushing a boy to the ground after he’d pinned me to a wall to kiss me. The teacher said he was just being my friend and I needed to be nicer.”
  • “Dress codes in school make me feel like I am a problem.”

Not nice enough. Not strong enough. Not loud enough to be heard. Not smart enough to be taken seriously. Given that these are the messages girls hear, it’s more important than ever to make sure they have safe spaces where they can be valued for who they are and take their lead as the experts on their own needs and experiences. Girls agree: 81% of girls told us that it is important for them to have access to spaces dedicated to girls and women. When girls can support and empower each other in a safe space, they are better equipped to take on the challenges facing them, head on.

What’s really amazing is this: even though girls deal with these challenges, they’re still resistant and resilient, carving their own paths. In fact, we’ve found that most girls are still motivated to pursue their aspirations – even if it defies stereotypes.

That’s why at Girl Guides, we think every day is Day of the Girl. Because being a girl should always be celebrated.

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