Girlguiding UK is 100 years old this year and to mark their centenary they have undertaken a comprehensive study of the views and opinions of girls aged 7 to 16 across the UK. Girl Guides identified five areas that the survey should cover to find out what their peers thought: family and relationships; education; society; environment and health and well-being. You can find the results of the survey on a dedicated website where you can download a report on each of the areas. Press coverage of the survey has tended to focus on body image and the fact that '46 per cent of girls aged 11 to 16, and 50 per cent of girls aged 16 to 21 would consider cosmetic surgery to make themselves thinner or prettier. The figures are even higher among under-16s who are not doing well at school. Only 19 per cent of girls whose performance was satisfactory or poor said that they would never have invasive surgery to improve their appearance.'
But there's more to the survey than that. For example on gender roles: 'In some areas, girls’ responses reflected traditional ideas about gender roles - the majority of girls associated men with looking after the car and women with carrying out the housework. However, with regard to childcare activities, discipline and managing household finances, girls where far less likely to favour either gender. Around half of 7- to 11-year-olds and 16- to 21-year-olds claimed that these tasks were likely to be shared equally between men and women, rising to around two thirds of 11- to 16-year-olds.'
On role models: 'A third of all girls across the younger age groups (7-16 years) chose Cheryl Cole as the best role model for girls of their age, making her by far the most popular choice. Among 7- to 11-year-olds, no other candidate was named by more than one in ten girls overall. However, their second choice, with 8 per cent of the vote, was the Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington, and JK Rowling and Katie Price/Jordan also scored relatively highly with 7 per cent each. Katie Price/Jordan was a much more popular second choice for 11- to 16-year-olds polling 15 per cent of their votes. Fewer than one in ten selected any other individual, but US First Lady Michelle Obama was chosen by 8 per cent. The oldest girls were equally unconvinced by the merits of any one individual on the list. However, Michelle Obama achieved the most votes, with 17 per cent of 16- to 21-year-olds citing her as the best role model. Cheryl Cole remained popular, achieving second place with 15 per cent. The only other women to achieve votes in the double-figures were Rebecca Adlington and JK Rowling.'
And on being a girl: 'The majority of girls across the entire age range believe it is better to be a girl than a boy (82 per cent). Reasons given by the youngest girls are relatively simplistic and cluster around images of boys as rough and dirty, in contrast to girls, who have the freedom to wear nice clothes and have sleepovers with their friends. 81 per cent of 11- to 16-year-olds believe it is better to be a girl. Like the younger girls they enjoy being able to wear nice clothes and make-up, but they also feel that they are more in touch with their emotions than boys, a view shared by 16- to 21-year-olds. 78 per cent of 16- to 21-year-olds believe it is better to be a girl. Fashion and beauty remain popular reasons, as well as emotional maturity, but the older girls also cite the ability to have children as a factor in their decision. Interestingly, despite advances in gender equality over the last 40 years, a significant minority of girls in each age group feel that they are at a disadvantage in comparison to boys of the same age. One in six 7- to 11-year-olds feel that they hardly ever, or never, get the same opportunities and this number rises to one in five of 11- to 16- year-olds. However, confidence does increase with age. One in two 16- to 21-year-olds feel that most of the time they are given the same opportunities as men. However, this appears to depend on life experience, as unemployed girls are much less likely to feel they have equality of opportunity (21 per cent) than those in education (54 per cent).'