1 October, 2014 - Growing sexism forcing girls, women away from life as leaders: new survey

  • Fewer than 1% dream of role in politics.
  • 49% say sexism affects the career path they choose.
  • More than 75% victims of sexist comments.
  • Half believe sexist attitudes in Australia increasing.
Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart and Girl Delegates from around the country are available for interviews. Please call Adam Cathro on 0488 202 945 to arrange.

Girls and young women are turning their back on a life in politics and other leadership roles thanks to an overwhelming perception of growing sexism in Australia, according to a major new Auspoll survey commissioned by child rights organisation Plan International Australia.

The survey of 1,000 girls and women aged between 14 and 25 found that fewer than one per cent dream of a job in politics, and that 49 per cent say sexism affects their choice of career path. It also found that more than three quarters of girls and young women have been subjected to sexist comments – 12 per cent regularly from strangers – and that almost half believe sexist attitudes in Australia are actually increasing.

“We commissioned this research to discover how girls and young women feel about sexism and their own place in Australia, and were genuinely shocked by the results,” says Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart. “The fact that fewer than one per cent of them dream of a life in politics does not bode well for a future in which women can take their places in the corridors of power.”

“Our perception in this country is that girls in the developing world are subject to sexism and injustice. It is sobering to discover that girls and young women in Australia can often feel equally limited and constrained.” The poll is being released today to kick off 10 days of action for girls, leading up to the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl on October 11. The day was established by the UN in 2012 after intense lobbying from Plan.

Plan will today lead a delegation of two dozen girls and young women aged between 14 and 26 to Canberra to meet with some of the country’s most prominent politicians. They will present a declaration to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with measures they believe will lead to a better and more equitable world for girls and young women.

The measures include ensuring universal and global access to quality education and health care; ending child marriage, child labour and human trafficking; equitable access to employment opportunities and an end to gender-based violence. The delegation is part of Plan’s Because I Am A Girl campaign, which aims to unleash the potential of girls by promoting their rights, transforming their futures and creating a better world for all.

The delegation drew upon the survey to consult with another 450 of their peers and form the declaration, and to call on the government to ensure that girls are at the centre of a new set of UN development goals to be created next year to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

Says Vera Cheffers, a 16-year-old Girls Delegate from Mildura: “We don’t want to accept the attitudes the survey uncovered. We want to challenge the everyday sexism faced by girls like me and ensure that we are treated equally and fairly and can play a leading role in changing our lives, both here in Australia and around the world.”

Wishart says: “These findings are a wake-up call for Australia and Australians. We need a concerted effort by everyone who cares about the future of women, or a generation of girls will be locked out of power. That’s why we are meeting with Julie Bishop today, to set out a clear pathway to power for girls and young women, and ensure they, Australia and the world can fully benefit from their participation in leadership,” he says.

Editors’ notes:
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious or political affiliations.

Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945