Girl Guides of Canada releases new findings on Gender Inequality in Canada
In the past year or so, there have been movements such as #MeToo and the Women’s March, highlighting gender inequality and the progress we still have to make. There’s been a huge focus on gender inequality in the workplace, politics and for adults, but what about the young people? The young girls?
Many young people in Canada still hold stereotypes about gender that are harmful and it occurs a lot more than you think in my generation and to young girls and yes, we notice it. Gender inequality isn’t just an issue that affects adults, it affects us too. Now don’t get me wrong, an overwhelming amount of young people support gender equality, but when stereotypes are made about gender and there are a known behaviours and attitudes that perpetuate gender inequality amongst young people, it will hold us back. It makes us think that we’re not capable of doing all that we can and becoming all that we can be.
I always say that my generation is the generation that’s changing the world and adults need to listen to us. When it comes to issues that impact our present and future this holds especially true. Gender Inequality is one of these issues. Given how quickly the world is changing, it is more important than ever to listen to girls’ voices and understand their perspectives. In September 2018 Girl Guides Canada conducted a survey focussed on girls and boys aged 12-17 and asked about attitudes and behaviors related to gender inequality.
I want to highlight some of the findings that stood out to me.
Proudly feminist – but too scared to speak out
I’ve always thought that feminism is one of the coolest things in the world – speaking out for equal rights for women alongside a community of so many other female and male powerhouses. And I thought that everyone would think that’s cool too, because if Justin Trudeau is a self-proclaimed feminist, who wouldn’t love fairness and equality? But recently I realized that some of my peers have negative stereotypes about feminism and can sometimes look down on people speaking out.
43% of young people say they would describe themselves as feminists.
For girls specifically, this increases with age: 45% of 12 to 14 year olds vs 56% of 15 to 17-year-olds.
And get this:
The survey found that in Canada 30% of girls say they are scared or hesitant to speak out and advocate for the equal rights of girls and women because of what might happen to them. It could be that they will experience teasing or other form of bullying. No one wants that (obviously).
Feminism is not just the belief that men and women are equal. It’s the knowledge that when we are all equal, all of us are more free. It’s a relentless commitment to look for ourselves in each other, because that’s how we start to build a world where everyone is treated with respect and recognition.
– Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, essay for MarieClaire.com
I think that this is because many have created a false definition of what being a feminist is all about.
Feminism is simply about creating a fair, just and equal society so that men and women (and boys and girls) have the same opportunities. Period.
Yes, sexism exists – it starts early and can affect the future
Don’t think that young girls experience sexism? Girls especially notice it at a young age. One in three girls say that they have been treated unequally or unfairly because of their gender. The experiences that girls have now affects how we think we will be treated in the future. Thinking ahead to when we’re 25 years old, more than half of girls are concerned they will be treated unequally and unfairly at work because of their gender (vs. 27% of boys.) One in four Canadian girls aged 15 to 17 do not feel motivated to pursue their dream career because they are concerned they will be compensated less than their male counterparts. This is not the way girls should be thinking about their future and these stats needs to change, and fast.
The Solution – Supportive and Safe Spaces
96% of girls agree that they have the power to make decisions about their lives and their future. Awesome, right? The only way people are going to be able to speak out on any issue they are passionate about is if they feel safe and empowered in the spaces we have today. 8 in 10 girls agree that its important for girls to have access to spaces dedicated to girls and women – rising to 9 in 10 among girls who identify as Asian, Indigenous or Black. When girls have the opportunity to support each other in a safe space, they can thrive and change the world. We can create that society, that world. I know we can. We do this by listening to us, young girls and recognizing that gender inequality is an issue for young girls so that we can create the solution.
I know first-hand that discussions about gender are important and they are happening. I am taking Grade 11 Gender Studies as on online credit. It’s not available at my school, but when I saw that it was an option for an elective online, I jumped at the opportunity to take it as one of my electives this year.
Thank you to GGC for listening to us and our experiences.
You can check out the full report on the survey, Sexism, Feminism & Equality: What Teens in Canada Really Think, on the Girl Guides of Canada website.