Girls and young women in the north of England feel less safe and less happy than their counterparts in London and the south, according to a survey by the Girlguiding charity, which is concerned about “stark” regional differences in attitudes.
More than one in five (22%) girls and young women in the north aged 11-16 who took part in the survey published on Tuesday blamed fear of sexual harassment for holding them back at school. The figure was significantly lower at 16% in London and the south.
Similarly, more than a quarter in the north (26%) said gender stereotyping was holding them back at school, compared with 18% in London and the south. The problem was particularly acute among LGBTQ+ girls and young women, with almost two in five (37%) complaining about gender stereotyping at school.
Overall, almost one in five (19%) girls and young women who took part in the survey said they don’t feel safe at school, but those in the north were less likely to feel safe (22%), compared with 19% in the Midlands and 16% in London and the south. Girls and young women of colour are, however, less likely to feel safe at school than their white counterparts (65% against 70%).
Chief executive Angela Salt said: “It is shocking how many girls and young women, some as young as 11 years old, don’t feel safe at school, on social media or out in public. Our research shows just how common discrimination, stereotyping and sexism is in our society and how unsurprisingly this creates barriers to happiness, confidence and success.
“Coupled with the disparities in girls’ experiences across the country, it is vital we act now to address these issues to ensure every girl and young woman is provided with the opportunities to fulfil their potential, no matter where they live.”
More than 3,000 girls and young women across the UK aged between seven and 21 were surveyed over March and April for the 2022 annual Girlguiding attitudes survey.
On Tuesday, the Home Office is due to uncover the second phase of its Enough campaign, which was set up to help tackle violence against girls and young women. It will use television adverts, billboards, social media and radio advertising to highlight different forms of violence against women and girls and how to challenge perpetrators of abuse.
The safeguarding minister, Mims Davies, said: “There is no place in our society for cowardly acts of violence against women and girls.”