24/09/2015 15:08 BST | Updated 24/09/2015 15:59 BST

Half Of Young Women Feel Scared And Unsafe When Alone In Parks, Girlguiding Study Finds

Three quarters of young women's lives are negatively affected by anxiety about sexual harassment, a shocking new report has found.

More than half of young women (51%) feel unsafe in parks when they are alone and 67% believe popular culture tells boys they are entitled to abuse their girlfriends, the 2015 Girls’ Attitudes Survey by Girlguiding discovered.

The survey unveiled plenty of eye-opening truths about the pressures girls face, which could pose a serious threat to mental wellbeing and resilience.

Some of these pressures include gender stereotyping and sexism as well as fear of physical, emotional and sexual harm.

young woman on bench in park

The Girls’ Attitudes Survey – now in its seventh year - is the largest survey of its kind that explores the lives of girls and young women in the UK.

Girlguiding’s chief guide, Gill Slocombe, said: "This year’s survey reveals the multitude of challenges girls face in their daily lives – testing their resilience and taking a worrying toll on their wellbeing.

"But the survey also reveals an inspiring generation of young women who are determined to speak out and take action for positive change for themselves and the world around them."

Key findings from the report

Girls face a barrage of everyday sexism in their daily lives – with most experiencing or seeing some form of sexism on a weekly basis.

In the past week:

:: 81% of girls aged 11-21 experienced some form of everyday sexism.

:: Three in five girls heard jokes or remarks that belittled or degraded girls and women first hand.

:: 42% read something in the media that trivialised violence or abuse towards women.

:: 39% had demeaning comments made to them about the way they look.

Three quarters of girls aged 11 to 21 (75%) said anxiety about experiencing sexual harassment negatively affects their lives in some way – from what they wear and where they go, to how they feel about their bodies.

Meanwhile 67% young women agree that popular culture tells boys that they are entitled to coerce or abuse their girlfriends.


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The report also discovered some interesting findings about gender stereotypes.

Fewer than one in 10 girls aged seven to 10 would chose a career as an engineer (3%), scientist (6%) or lawyer (6%).

It also found that as girls grow up and enter the crowded job market, they feel under pressure to conform to outdated stereotypes to help their careers.

Two in five young women aged 17 to 21 feel under pressure to stay slim in order to have a better chance at job interviews (44%), while one in four feel they have to wear high heels (27%) or wear a lot of makeup (25%) to help their chances.

But perhaps the most concerning finding was that girls’ mental wellbeing worries start from as young as seven. This escalates as they get older with two in five girls aged 11 to 21 needing to seek help with mental health concerns.

Self-harming emerged as the top health concern for girls aged 11-21, closely followed by smoking, mental illness, depression and eating disorders.

Nearly two thirds (62%) of girls aged 11 to 21 know a girl their age who has experienced a mental health problem, while almost half of girls aged 17 to 21 (46%) have personally needed help with their mental health.

Girlguiding advocate Larissa Kennedy, 17, said that these pressures now need to be addressed to help boost the wellbeing of young women.

"We’ve given a voice to girls’ concerns – now it’s time for real change to tackle this damning status quo," she added.

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