9 out of 10 Australian girls feel they aren't equal, survey shows

Sherry-Rose Watts is 20 and says women and girls of colour and from migrant backgrounds like herself, face particular challenges with sexism in Australia Source: Supplied

Less than one in ten Australian girls feel they are always treated equally to boys, a new survey on gender equality has found.

Plan International Australia youth ambassador, Sherry-Rose Watts, is concerned at the number of Australian girls and young women who say they are experiencing sexism in their home and school lives, and tells SBS that women of colour and from migrant backgrounds are in a particularly vulnerable situation.

Six hundred girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 19 took part in the Everyday Sexism study by Our Watch and Plan International Australia, with the results showing that when it comes to home and school life, many do not feel they are on equal footing with their male counterparts.

Half of all the girls surveyed responded that they are seldom or never valued for their brains over their looks, while one in three say they always do more housework than their brothers.

This inequality also extends to their perceived employment potential with one in three girls agreeing "it'd be easier to get dream job if I was a man", and just 14 per cent felt they were given the same opportunities to succeed in life as boys.

Ms Watts tells SBS she’s feels strongly about the results as it’s “a reflection of the real experiences, opinions and expectations of many young women and girls in Australia including myself.”

Sherry-Rose was shocked by the number of young women and girls who said they experience sexism

“It directly concerns me, it concerns my sister, it concerns my friends and it concerns the women that I look up to. I do not feel that as I young woman that I have been treated equally to the boys that I’ve grown up with and that’s not because of a particular incident but an accumulation of small incidents that happen throughout your childhood and into adulthood that make you realise that being a female in this society does disadvantage me.”

Ms Watts’ family migrated to Australia from Cameroon and she notes that women of colour face particular challenges.

“I myself, being a woman of colour of a migrant background, I do feel like so many issues to do with gender cannot be discussed in complete isolation from someone belonging to another minority group, or coming from a different background or cultural context,” she says.

“I do feel like there is discrimination afforded to women of migrant backgrounds and women of colour that is not afforded to Anglo-white women and girls in Australia.”

The survey interviewed 600 young Australian women and girls about their experiences with sexism
Plan International Australia

A cultural shift and strong, decisive leadership is what Ms Watts believes is necessary to fight the deep seeded perceptions of gender roles, but she feels Australia still has a long way to go.

“What was shocking were the figures, the degree to which many young girls and women in modern Australia feel they are experiencing everyday sexism,” she says.

“[The survey] is not an arbitrary document, it reflects the experience of many girls and women, it reflects how they see themselves and what they feel their place in society is.”

Susanne Legena, Deputy CEO Plan International Australia, adds that one step towards parity is that gender inequality is increasingly being discussed in the public domain.

“It’s a hot topic at the moment given [Donald] Trump’s inexcusable comments about casually sexually assaulting women,” she tells SBS.

“Since then, thousands of women have come forward online with their stories of harassment and assault, often starting at a very early age. It really validates what we’re seeing here in this report.”

Ms Legena adds that she’s glad the remarks – in which Mr Trump brags about grabbing women “by the p***y” during a private conversation in 2005 – have been brought to light, as they encourage a frank discussion about the matter.

“Trump’s comments remind us that vile sexist attitudes towards women often result in assault. At the heart of all this is that a sexist culture where women are valued for their looks over their brains is a huge part of the problem,” she says.

“We need to work towards a more equal society and encourage respectful relationships where girls are treated like humans rather than objects.”

Sherry-Rose believes a cultural shift is needed to reach gender parity in Australia

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