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Young women call on the PM to lead change on gender stereotypes

Young women say negative gender-based stereotypes damage their working lives, their sense of self, their safety in relationships, and their leadership capacity. Young women are calling on the PM to lead change on the gender stereotypes that limit women and girls.

The YWCA She Speaks survey of 1600 young women, ages 15-30 in Australia is the largest survey of its kind “collecting information from young women about their attitudes, perceptions and experiences of leadership”. The survey from YWCA and report from the Institute of Social Science Research (ISSR) at the University of Queensland has found young women and girls also want to be part of the change.

71% of the She Speaks participants want to be leaders in the future, and 58% of the girls and young women surveyed already consider themselves to be a leader in their family, school, community and/or workplace. Only 23% of the She Speaks participants thought that they saw effective leadership in public life.

“She Speaks tells us about young women’s leadership in the here and now, and also looks to the future,” – Dr Caroline Lambert Executive Director YWCA Australia

She Speaks participants have called for Government to fund young women’s leadership programs. Said a survey participant: “We need more female leadership programs in schools because we need to start creating leaders from a younger age and encouraging females to become leaders.” (18 to 20 years).

While young women’s leadership aspirations are strong, the majority of She Speaks participants see that Australia is a sexist society. 88% of the She Speaks participants reported that women experience discrimination in Australia, 80% believe gender equality has not been achieved, and 73% think that men and women are not valued equally. 79% of She Speaks participants felt that gender-based stereotypes affected their day-to-day life.

Young women and girls said that violence is a big part of their lives:  73% of participants identified violence against women as affecting the day-to-day life of women in Australia, and 34% say that they have received uninvited and unwanted indecent and/or sexually explicit texts/phone calls/messages.

While 70% of She Speaks participants felt that they could seek help and report relationship violence to the police, 30% of participants felt that they could not report violence and could not identify problematic behaviours in a relationship.

Girls and younger women in particular identified experiencing sexism, media pressure and social expectations to conform to certain, sometimes unhealthy, body images, as an overwhelming factor. She Speaks responses highlight the need for programs that support girls and young women to negotiate safer sexual relationships and to address unwanted male attention and supports calls for a national comprehensive sexuality education curriculum.