Young people and gender inequality


Violence against women and girls

  • Sexual bullying and harassment are routine in UK schools. Almost a third of girls experience unwanted sexual touching in UK schools, and close to one in three (28%) of 16-18-year-olds say they have seen sexual pictures on mobile phones at school a few times a month or more. (1)
  • Nearly one in four 16-18-year-olds say that their teachers never said unwanted sexual touching, sharing of sexual pictures or sexual name calling are unacceptable. (2)
  • 1 in 3 teenage girls has experienced sexual violence from a boyfriend. (3)
  • 1 in 3 young women experiences sexual bullying in school on a daily basis. (4)
  • If girls experience repeated sexual harassment, they are significantly more likely to attempt suicide. (5)
  • According to the World Health Organisation, globally school is the most common setting for sexual harassment and coercion. (6)
  • Over 20,000 girls under 15 are at high risk of female genital mutilation in England and Wales each year. (7)
  • 1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls think it is ok sometimes to hit a woman or force her to have sex. (8)

Sexual objectification

  • A survey for the Channel 4 programme Sex Education versus Pornography found 60% of 14 to 17 year olds agreed that “pornography might give boys or girls false ideas about sex”, and three in 10 said they learn about sex from porn. (9)
  • A BBC survey of 18-24 year old men found: 60% men (18-24) say porn has harmful effects; a quarter of all men in the survey said they were worried about the amount of porn they were looking at, while almost as many said they were concerned about the type of images they were viewing; 1 in 5 men worry that porn is influencing their behaviour. (10)
  • In 2007 Ofsted, the UK schools inspectorate, commended the sexually explicit content in lads’ mags such as Nuts, claiming that they offer a ‘very positive source of advice and reassurance for many young people’ despite ‘at times reinforcing sexist attitudes’. (11)

Body image

  • An Ofsted survey of 150,000 children found that by the age of 10 a third of girls cited their bodies as their main source of worry. (12)
  • 16%of fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds have avoided going to school because they felt bad about their appearance and 20% have avoided giving an opinion in public because of it. (13)
  • One in three girls would consider cosmetic surgery. (14)
  • An experiment at the University of Michigan found that mental functioning is impaired by body image concerns. Female college students performed worse in a maths test while wearing a swimsuit than when wearing a sweater, yet this pattern wasn’t found for boys. (15)
  • As part of some research in 2007 into young girls’ feelings about self-esteem and body image a group of Brownies aged seven to ten, members of Girlguiding UK, were asked to describe ‘Planet Sad’: they spoke of its inhabitants as being fat and bullied because of their weight and appearance. (16)


  • In the UK, 1.6 million more men than women aged sixteen and over have been active in the past four weeks, and nearly double the proportion of men than women in the age bracket sixteen to twenty-four regularly take part in sports. (17)
  • 40% of girls feel self-conscious about their bodies during PE, and 26% say they ‘hate the way that they look when they exercise/ play sport’. (18)


  • Nearly a third (31%) of boys believe women politicians are not as good as men. (19)
  • Twenty per cent of girls said they were put off a career in science because they saw them as ‘jobs for boys’. (20)



(1) End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), 2010
(2) EVAW 2010
(4) Womankind Worldwide,
(5) C. Bagley et al., ‘Sexual Assault in School, Mental Health and Suicidal Behaviours in Adolescent Women in Canada’, Adolescence, 32(126) (1997): 361–6.
(6) Cited in ‘Safe Schools: Every Girl’s Right. Stop Violence Against Women’, Amnesty International, 2008.
(7) EVAW:
(8) EVAW:
(11) Coy et al (2007)., ‘It’s Just Like Going to the Supermarket’: Men buying sex in East London, CWASU
(12) cited on
(13) Beyond Stereotypes: Rebuilding the Foundation of Beauty Beliefs, findings of the 2005 Dove Global Study, Unilever, 2006
(15) B. L. Fredrickson et al., ‘That Swimsuit Becomes You: Sex Differences in Self-Objectification, Restrained Eating, and Math Performance’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1) (1998): 269–84.
(16) Self-Esteem: Girls Shout Out! Under Ten and under Pressure?’, Girlguiding UK, 2007.
(17) The Equality Illusion: The Trust About Women and Men Today, Kat Banyard, 2010
(18) It’s Time: Future Forecasts for Women’s Participation in Sport and Exercise, WSFF, 2007
(19) Moving Forward, Standing Still, Primary Research, The State of the World’s Girls, Plan 2011
(20) ‘Girls Choosing Camera Lenses over Microscopes’, Guardian, 3 October 2008.