Aussie girls yearning for equal treatment

Belinda Tasker
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THE DREAM GAP REPORT

A survey of more than 1700 Aussie girls has discovered most feel they are treated unequally to boys

Equality seems a long way off for Australia's girls, with most feeling they are treated unfairly compared to boys.

Plan International Australia surveyed more than 1700 girls aged 10 to 17 and discovered 98 per cent believed they were unfairly treated particularly in sport, the media, as well as at school and home.

Plan's deputy chief executive Susanne Legena described the finding as shocking and a wake-up call for governments to address the issue by banning sexist advertising, removing gendered school uniforms, and closing the pay gap.

"We have to make things right for girls," she wrote in a report on the survey, published on Wednesday to coincide with International Day of the Girl.

"There's no use telling a girl she is empowered and can change the world if the structures and systems are not there to support her."

Sport and the media were where girls felt the most discrimination.

Fewer than 10 per cent of 15-to-17-year-olds thought they were always treated as equals to boys, while for younger girls it was just 16 per cent.

Four-out-of-five felt there was more focus on girls' looks than boys' in the media, with fewer than 10 per cent of girls in their late teens believing men and women were treated equally on TV and in magazines.

Schools fared slightly better, with 45 per cent of younger girls feeling they were treated as equals but that dropped to just 29 per cent by the time the girls entered their late teens.

A similar pattern emerged at home, with nearly two thirds of girls aged 10 to 14 being treated equally at home but only 36 per cent of older teens, particularly when it came to household chores.

Girls' confidence levels also took a hit as they headed further into their teens.

Psychologist Dr Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Girls and 10 Things Girls Need Most, was shocked by the findings and pins some of the blame on social media and the increasing focus on girls' appearances.

"We have to change how men and boys talk about and treat girls, and every parent of a boy should do this," he told AAP.

For Sydney high school student Jacqueline Rousselot, a Plan International Australia youth ambassador, the findings serve as a warning about how normalised sexism is for young girls.

"It's little things like gendered school uniforms and how you're treated at home and an imbalance in chores that add up to young kids thinking sexism is normal and shouldn't be addressed," she said.

Despite the overwhelming feelings of inequality, almost all girls believed they were just as good as boys at being leaders as well as at subjects including science and maths, music and sport.

"That's really good news because in a short period of time we've started to change attitudes," lead researcher Dr Rebecca Huntley said.

"Next we need to start to do things around how girls get treated in areas where they see they are being discriminated against."