Australia’s fearless girls growing into fearful young women, Plan International Australia research finds

Girls in Australia suffer a dramatic loss of confidence as they grow up to become young women, according to research from leading girls’ rights agency Plan International Australia.

In 2017, Plan International Australia engaged Essential Research to survey more than 2000 Australian girls and young women aged 10-25-years old about their aspirations for the future.

New data from that survey, released today on International Women’s Day, reveals how girls lose confidence as they grow older – while 50% of 10-12 year olds felt they were ‘brave’, it drops to 28% for 17 year olds. Just 18% of 22-25 year olds felt brave.

Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said the findings were deeply concerning.

“We’ve just welcomed the famous Fearless Girl statue to Melbourne, a fantastic symbol of girls’ bravery. And yet, this data shows us that, as Australian girls grow into women, they face a crisis of confidence,” said Ms Legena.

“It’s deeply concerning but not surprising, as girls in Australia and around the world are growing up in societies with ingrained sexist views, which undermines their confidence and shapes their lives.

“It starts at birth, when gender stereotyping commences, determining what girls wear and play with.”

Ms Legena said the research also underlined the importance of strong role models in girls’ lives.

“Girls need role models to look up to. Research shows one of the greatest determinants of a girl’s future ability to achieve her dreams is access to strong capable role models – you can only be what you can see.”

“Seeing few people like them in industries like politics and science discourages girls from pursuing their interests, robbing them of work, career and leadership opportunities.”

Around half of girls aged 10-17 said their mother was their most important role model, according to the survey findings. Friends were the next most popular for younger girls, aged 10-12, while older girls aged 15-17 preferred celebrities, politicians, and media personalities.

Girls also expressed their desire for mentors to help them overcome the barriers and inequality they face – 59% of 18-21 year olds felt it would be easier for women to become leaders if they had more mentoring opportunities.

Ms Legena said: “Globally, we want to see better representation of women as leaders, in the community, in politics and in the workforce, and it starts with girls.

“We will not achieve equality until we give girls around the world equal access to power, and we see and hear them in parliaments, at decision-making tables, in classrooms, cities and homes.”

“Women can be girls’ greatest allies by sharing knowledge and inspiring them – so girls don’t lose confidence in their abilities, and can grow into the women they want to be.”

For Editors

  • Essential Research conducted two surveys for Plan International Australia from 24 July 2017 to 14 August 2017. This included a survey of 817 girls aged 10–14 years, and 925 girls aged 15–17 years, using Qualtrics’ software platform, as well as an online panel survey of 530 young men and women aged 18-25-years-old, which was undertaken by Essential Research’s Online Research Unit.

About Plan International 

 Plan International is a global independent development and humanitarian organisation. We champion girls’ rights because we know that there is nowhere in the world where girls are treated as equals. We work alongside children, young people, supporters and partners to tackle the root causes of injustices facing girls and the most marginalised children.

Plan International works in more than 75 countries to help create a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Our local office, Plan International Australia funds programs to support children in more than 25 countries, as well as sponsorship programs across the federation.