Gender discrimination present among students as young as 16, schoolgirls report

Significant disparity also surfaces between boys and girls around pay expectations for their first job

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The Independent Online

As the gender divide debate in both the education system and workplace rages on, a new survey has revealed discrimination is being witnessed by schoolgirls as young as 16.

Over a third of girls aged 16 to 18 - 36 per cent - say they have witnessed gender discrimination in school. Startlingly, only one in five boys - or 19 per cent - believes a gender divide exists today.

Findings have also indicated a difference in classroom performance; 36 per cent of girls believe their gender makes them feel less confident in putting themselves forward for leadership roles, with a quarter stating boys dominate classroom discussions too much.

The research has been commissioned by charity, Young Enterprise, as it releases a new report - Youth Unemployment: a Gender Divide - which examines the growing gender gap in secondary education which then leads on into the workplace.

The charity said its survey findings have translated into business confidence, with the revelation there is a “significant disparity” between boys and girls around pay expectations for their first job.

The majority of girls - at 71 per cent - expect to earn less than £20,000 in their first job, compared to just 52 per cent of boys. In contrast, 28 per cent of boys think they will earn over £25,000 in their first job, with just 13 per cent of girls thinking they will earn over this amount.

Michael Mercieca, chief executive of Young Enterprise, described how the gender divide “remains rife in our education system,” from girls lacking the confidence to pursue leadership roles and to expect higher starting salaries, to the “pervasive belief” STEM topics are more interesting for boys.

Mercieca continued: “Unless schools and businesses proactively work to change this perspective, we risk a self-fulfilling prophecy of fewer women involved in STEM careers, and in more lower-paid jobs.

“The gender divide has afflicted British businesses and industries for too long. We need stronger character development in schools, and more engagement with female role models and business leaders to encourage all young people - both boys and girls - to have the ambition and confidence to pursue exciting, well-paid careers.”

Young Enterprises’ report has come in the same month as one for social mobility charity, the Sutton Trust, which found the growing gender gap in university admissions is present in pupils as young as 13 with girls more likely than boys to see going into higher education (HE) as being important.

The head of the National Union of Students (NUS), Megan Dunn, also recently criticised post-graduation life for being “rife with inequalities.”

Her comments came after the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed how graduates from richer families earn significantly more than poorer students, even if both study the same degree subject at the same university. IFS also revealed how women, in particularly, were lagging behind their male counterparts.

Dunn said: “It’s hugely disappointing to see women and poorer graduates are facing such a massive disadvantage in the workplace. The marketisation of education is failing students and graduates.

“NUS has always demanded social justice be at the forefront of education policy and we will continue to support students from lower income backgrounds and campaign to close the gender pay gap.”

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