Redefining Traditional Perceptions of Leadership

By School House

2 years ago

National survey reveals secondary school girls are redefining traditional perceptions of leadership, but face a confidence dip between ages 14 to 18

Almost a third of girls nationally between the ages of 9 and 18 have felt unable to participate in certain activities or subjects because of their gender.

Nationally representative study also reveals two third of girls believe it will be hard to get the job they want, and fewer than one in five want to work in an office.

The Girls’ Day School Trust’s (GDST) ‘The Girls’ Futures Report’ examines the challenges girls face as they leave school and sets out the actions required to equip girls across the country to lead the lives they want.

London, 5th October 2022 – The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), the UK’s leading network of girls‘ independent and academy schools, has today released research spotlighting the ambition and aspirations of girls aged 9 to 18, and the barriers that need addressing to support their futures.

Data from a nationally representative study of girls across state, academy and independent schools (84% from co-ed schools and 16% from girls-only schools) was released as part of GDST’s 150th anniversary ‘The Girls’ Futures Report’, and explores the mindset and perspectives of young women on the key issues they face – including confidence, skills, leadership, future of work, and online misinformation.

Survey shows what girls want from their working laves

Key findings revealed: 

Confidence drop: A number of measures revealed girls’ confidence drops by around half between the ages of 14 and 18: 39% of girls feel negative about their future age 18, double the percentage (20%) who feel this at age 14, with the number who believe they will get the job they want dropping from 46% to 20% over the same age gap.

Redefining traditional perceptions of leadership: Girls are twice as likely to say they want to do a job they enjoy than to be rich; they are nearly three times as likely to prioritise being healthy and safe than a leader; and also twice as likely to prioritise being respected than being a leader. Few girls see the spoils of traditional leadership such as salary, prestige or power as aspirational but they do prioritise honesty, integrity and resilience as qualities they believe leaders should possess.

Preparing for the adult world: Only 8% of girls in secondary school feel that school fully prepares them for the adult world, although two-thirds believe it prepares them for some aspects. Girls want to be taught more practical skills with only one in 10 girls in senior school saying they felt school had provided adequate guidance around financial education. Only 10% say they learn enough about different ways to earn money, and only 16% about what the working world will be like.

Girls prioritise making a difference: 83% of girls in senior school want to do a job that they enjoy and two-thirds want to make a difference to society through their careers. Three quarters believe it is their generation’s responsibility to make the world a better place. 

Future of work: Girls are passionate about taking on roles that they enjoy (83%). However, they are also pragmatic and understand the importance of job security (79%) and good pay (75%). Three in four girls want to work flexibly, and nine in 10 want to work in an environment that best suits them. Fewer than 20% want to work in an office.

Survey show what girls want to get out of work

Misinformation: More than half of girls surveyed (56%) say they see fake news online at least once a week but only four in ten know what to do when they see it. Although social media is the most used medium through which they consume their news, only 28% trust what they see on social media.

The research, carried out in conjunction with research agency YouthSight, was drawn from a survey completed by 1,358 girls aged 9-18 from across England and Wales along with expert insights from a range of prominent voices in the field – including Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka and Flex Appeal; Gina Miller, Campaigner and Leader of the True & Fair Party; and Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

Cheryl Giovannoni, Chief Executive of GDST, commented: ‘As a society we need to understand more about how we can prepare girls for the world they face beyond school – and to do this we must listen to the girls themselves.

‘It is clear from these findings that girls and young women have a very firm idea of what they want from the world, but they don’t necessarily think they are equipped to achieve it. 

‘All girls should be able to reach their ambitions and goals and have the confidence and conditions to design the future they want. We need to work collectively to put the best support in place to make that happen for all girls. We must work together to give them an education that is relevant beyond the classroom and ensure they have the tools to tackle the challenges they face in today’s world.

‘It’s time for collaboration across the education sector, and with all those responsible for guiding young people, to examine the totality of the education system and the journey of young women into the working world.’

Survey shows how positive girls feel about their future

Jude Kelly CBE, CEO and Founder of The WOW Foundation, commented: ‘It’s encouraging to see that girls and young women of today are driven by purpose and they feel able to shape their futures in that way. Young leaders like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai – and others focused on mission-led campaigns – are serving as an inspiration, and I’m confident we’re on the cusp of a new generation of female leaders emerging in a values-driven world.

‘It’s precisely why we shouldn’t forget that on the other side of that ambition are the traditional kitemarks associated with girls as ‘sensitive, caring, nurturing’ – which often strip them of their power in the world – and it’s something we need to tackle to create a world that fully embraces a more enlightened view of female leadership.’

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