That’s a question Deputy CEO of Plan International Australia Susanne Legena asks in the opening note of her organisation’s excellent new report looking at what Australian girls think about gender equality.
She goes on to say her world changed when she became a young adult, and then identified a “rift” between what she dreamt of becoming, and the opportunities she saw available to her.
It’s a Dream Gap, and Susanne is certainly not alone in feeling it.
Plan has surveyed 1742 girls aged 10 to 17 about their thoughts on gender equality in Australia and identified some alarming – but also some comforting – trends regarding what they think.
First the alarming. A massive 98% of girls don’t believe they receive equal treatment to boys, especially in sport and media. Ninety one percent agreed it would be “easier to get ahead if they were treated the same as boys”.
The study found the confidence of girls decreases as they get older: More than half (56%) said they were confident at 10, compared with 44% at 17. Forty per cent of girls think gender will be the biggest barrier to them becoming a leader. The majority of respondents also said it would be easier to get ahead in life if they weren’t judged on their appearance.
Now the comforting – or, at least, optimistic. When asked what they would like to see change in the world, 50% of these girls said gender equality. They want to see governments and businesses doing more for gender equality, and less restrictions around gender stereotypes.
Indeed, girls are noticing the gender discriminations and are speaking out about them. As one 12 year old quoted in the report says: “I hate the fact that sportsmen are paid more than females. There is a huge difference in income between, for example, a male soccer player and a female netball player.”
Releasing the report to mark today’s International Day of the Girl Child, Plan has also shared some stats regarding the challenges facing girls internationally, including that 82 million girls are still married before their 18th birthday every year, and girls make up 70% of out-of-school youths.
Plan cites figures from EY claiming that the Australian economy would gain $8 billion if female university grads were able to enter the workforce at the same rates as their male counterparts.
All good things to remember this International Day of the Girl, on which we focus on the empowerment of girls everywhere.
Check out the full report. It’s brilliant.
Pictured above, Keira, a Plan International Australia Youth Activist.