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We see the big picture: Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2018

Welcome to Girlguiding’s tenth Girls’ Attitudes Survey. Over the last decade, this unique research has enabled our charity to hear the views of thousands of girls and young women aged 7 to 21 from across the UK on what it means to be a girl growing up in today’s world. And it’s had a big impact!

From the pressures girls face at school, on social media and around their appearance, to the alarming incidence of sexual harassment, bullying and everyday sexism, we’ve been able to shed light on what’s going on in girls’ lives. This has also included girls’ aspirations for their futures and the things that make them feel happy, confident and proud. For better or worse, Girlguiding has been able to reveal these issues and then act to make change.

Years of our findings on girls’ body confidence have informed and inspired high-profile work that has transformed society’s understanding of this issue. The consistent reports from girls about the sexual harassment they face at school, alongside our campaigning on this, have influenced important national-level change. And those are just two examples.

This year is also the tenth year of Girlguiding’s Advocate Panel, 18 young women aged 14 to 25, which was set up to drive the direction of the survey and Girlguiding’s campaigns.

We’ve been reporting on girls’ wellbeing since the start of the survey and a stark change across the decade is that the number of girls saying they’re ‘very happy’ has almost halved. It’s sad to see that mental health issues are increasingly prevalent. Particularly this year, girls are more likely to know someone who’s suffered from an anxiety disorder. On the plus side, girls are more comfortable talking about mental health and learning about it at school.

Another topic we’ve been exploring is girls’ attitudes towards science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and professions. It’s great to see that younger girls’ enjoyment of information and communications technology (ICT) has more than doubled over the past ten years, leading to the potential for more women in STEM in the future. And we feel encouraged that more younger girls say they’d like to be a leader in the future.

2018 also marks 100 years since some women were given the vote, and that prompted us to revisit girls’ views on politics. There’s an increased desire from girls to be taught politics, citizenship and voting compared to 2010, yet many girls are put off politics because of how female politicians are represented in the media.

For the first time we asked girls about periods this year. Just over two thirds of girls think schools should offer free period products – a call we’re making to the government as part of our End Period Poverty campaign.

We’re pleased to see how passionate girls are about equality and that they’re increasingly challenging the negative experiences they face – we’re really happy to see more girls identifying as a feminist today than five years ago. We’re proud that girls’ voices have really been heard because of our survey. The Prime Minister, Parliament, academics, other charities, campaigners, journalists, celebrities and, of course, other girls and young women have all used the data to highlight the sometimes shocking inequalities and pressures girls still face in their daily lives. We feel confident that if girls are listened to and we continue to act for change, together we can build a better future for all girls and young women.