Australian girls feel they’re valued for looks over brains, report reveals

headshot of a Serious beautiful little child looking away

Which phrase has your daughter heard more often in her young life? “You’re so pretty,” or “You’re so smart”? If you ask young women in Australia, they’ll probably answer “pretty”, so it’s no surprise that one in six girls feel they’re valued for their looks over their brains.

To coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child, a report has been released today by Our Watch and Plan International that examines girls’ views on gender equality in Australia.

Everyday Sexism: girls’ and young women’s view on gender equality in Australia reviews the responses of 600 girls aged 15 to 19 surveyed on their feelings about gender equality.

According to the report, one in three girls say “it’d be easier to get a dream job if I was a man.” Half of the girls say they are seldom or never valued for their brains over their looks, and a third say they always do more housework than their brothers.

Girls don’t get the support they need

Plan International spokeswoman Susanne Legena told The Huffington Post that the report shows where society is letting girls down: at school, online, in public and at home.

“There’s all these scenarios in our culture that reinforce it is not the same to be a girl and a boy and that they’re not given equal chances in everything,” Legena said.

41 per cent of girls say feelings of inequality and lack of support will make them re-evaluate whether to start a family.

Legena said, “They are probably witnessing that double bind that their mothers are experiencing, of having careers and also running a house and not have things change, and it’s making them think, ‘I don’t want that.’”

“They want a new model, and I think there are men out there who want a different model too.”

The online space is particularly worrying. Kids are exposed to sexual imagery, and girls feel pressured to share sexy images. Legena said, “… if they don’t go through with it or do speak out, they’re often trolled as a backlash.”

But it’s not all bad news

The report wasn’t all negative. Most girls felt equal at school, and two thirds thought that issues of gender equality had improved since their parents’ generation.

According to Legena, parents can help by simply having an awareness of sexism and discrimination, and by talking to their kids about how they’re feeling.

She said, “I don’t think we can stop it yet, but I think we can teach them the skills to critique it, to call it out and to create something different.”

Plan Australia is partnering with Facebook to create an online discussion about gender inequality in Australia. To join the discussion, visit the Because I am a Girl Facebook page.

Subscribe to Babyology

Our email newsletters keep you up to date with what’s happening on Babyology.

We also have special newsletter-only offers and competitions that are exclusive to Babyology subscribers.

Sign up below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to a friend