GSA Research Reveals what Girls Think in 2023 about Equality for Women and Girls

GSA Research Reveals what Girls Think in 2023 about Equality for Women and Girls

28 November 2023

The Girls’ Schools Association unveils its Equality for Women and Girls research which proves girls’ schools continue to be the driving force behind creating a more equal world for women.

GSA, which leads the UK’s biggest annual research study in state and independent single-sex girls’ schools, surveyed over 9,000 girls and over 500 teachers to investigate their experiences and perspectives in a wide-ranging study that examined power and status in politics, in business, and in the home, and their experience in schools through the female lens. Results reveal girls in girls’ schools to be savvy, spirited individuals acutely aware of inequalities they face in the wider world, highly alert to the different experience offered to them in their schools; places where they feel honoured and listened to, schools that equip them with the tools and opportunity to embrace life, and to further challenge the status quo for the benefit of every girl, beyond school.

ImpactEd Evaluation and The Girls’ Schools Association partnered to investigate how girls at GSA schools perceive equality for women and girls. The data overwhelming confirms that girls’ schools and girls in girls’ schools have an acute understanding of what the experience of an equal world should be. They experience this directly through affirmative action in GSA schools; schools where pupils are taught to confidently understand what is fair and right for women in the world; schools where girls experience first-hand equal opportunity in a gender fair space; schools where young women feel that they are supported by understanding, caring, and articulate teachers and adults in their lives that help to prepare them for life.

Key findings reveal:

  • 80% of all pupils surveyed said they had been taught about equality for women and girls at school.
  • 82% of pupils responded to say they did have adults they could talk to about these issues.
  • Pupils in year 5 felt their school had covered the topic of equality for women and girls better than other year groups. 68.6% of year 5 pupils thought their school covered the topic “well” or very well”, demonstrating how understanding is seeded at a young age through age appropriate teaching
  • Pupils’ perception of equality for women and girls decreases by age: between year 5 and year 13, there was a reduction of 19.8% in perceptions towards equality.
  • 74% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that they did have the tools, resources and support they need to be able to teach pupils about equality for women and girls.
  • 76.2% also agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I actively challenge gendered language for women and girls and behaviour among pupils”.
  • 39.6% of pupils agreed or strongly agreed that their gender influences what people think about them.
  • This compares to 16.3% of pupils who agreed or strongly agreed that their gender impacts the activities that pupils are offered at school.
  • Pupils felt, on average, that activities outside of school (2.65 out of 5) were 12.5% more affected by their gender, than those inside of school (2.15 out of 5).

Understanding that the world is still not as it should be for women does not deter girls but rather acts as a spur for them to engage more fully with the issue. As one pupil put it: “I just want to know more about real world inequality”. Indeed, they demonstrate a hunger to learn more in school about the gender pay gap, economic inequalities (the price difference in health products being referenced), and how to advocate for equality for women and girls in the future.

Subjects’ pupils found useful related to equality for women and girls were revealed to be History (specifically work on human rights, The Suffragettes, and feminism), PSHE (on careers), and Biology (work on periods and puberty in general was highlighted).

Donna Stevens, GSA CEO, says: “It’s no surprise to me that our girls are alive to the world and its inequities for women and girls, or that our schools act as a powerful counterpoint and example to the world of how a fair and just experience for girls can be lived. Girls’ Schools Association and its Heads have always been at the forefront of understanding girls’ experiences, honouring who they are as they are, empowering them to challenge the status quo, so that they can raise the bar for every girl in the world. Educational leadership in schools that prepare girls for an unequal world serves to create citizens with agency and chutzpah to change the world for the better. Our mission is to fuel future generations with an education that understands and is built for young women, and through our research we listen carefully and closely to girls and deliver on our promise to give them voice and priority in education, and in the word beyond.”

Fionnuala Kennedy Head at Wimbledon High School GDST adds: “Those of us privileged to work in girls’ schools know how conversations about equality amongst our students are more often than not outward facing – our girls and young women care deeply not just about what happens to their friends and peers, but about the inequalities that women and girls encounter across the board. In any GSA member school, lively debates about intersectionality, or about the challenges women face in other countries no doubt abound. This focus for the GSA Research Partnership is therefore most welcome as we collectively look to effect change for the future.”

Owen Carter, Co-Founder and Director at ImpactEd Group, comments: “We have been delighted to again work with the Girls’ Schools Association, reaching over 9000 pupils and 500 teachers to deliver this research. The report sheds light on GSA pupils’ perception of equality for women and girls and how age and other demographics may affect this perception. Teachers’ perspectives give context to how this issue is already being engaged with at school, as well as suggesting areas in which teachers feel they would benefit from further support. We hope that this information will support schools in considering how best to support teachers and their pupils on this topic in the future.”

GSA’s research group is a unified partnership across the independent and state sectors that steers analytical data collection across the whole educational sector, with the aim of presenting a nationwide understanding of girls’ educational experiences, in both independent and state schools. The working steering group is Fairfield High School for Girls, Farnborough Hill, La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School, Lady Margaret School, St Mary’s School Colchester, Westfield School, and Wimbledon High School GDST.

The full research findings were presented at GSA’s Annual Conference Illuminating Lives | Inspiring Futures on Tuesday 21 November.

To find out more about this and other GSA research, visit the Research section of the GSA website.

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