From the gifts of dolls and plastic kitchen sets to being told ‘girls can’t do that’, to social media feeds filled with beautiful, thin, airbrushed women, young girls face many barriers when it comes to developing confidence. Yet despite the rise of feminist books, films and shows starring smart, funny and diverse girls and women, society is still lagging behind. Old gender norms are still frustratingly prevalent in the home, at school and in public. For every Moana, there’s a grandparent that insists on dressing their granddaughter in pink.
In their bestselling book The Confidence Code for Girls, authors Claire Shipman and Katty Kay conducted a survey of over 1,400 eight to 18-year-old girls and their parents and guardians. They found confidence levels for boys and girls are pretty much the same until age eight. But between the ages of eight and 14, girls’ confidence drops by 30 per cent. There’s no doubt puberty is a rough time for everyone, but boys’ confidence decline is not nearly as huge as what girls tend to experience. So what is causing this decline? We spoke to some inspiring women including bestselling author Rachel Simmons, founder of Beautiful Minds Marina Passalaris and executive director of Australian Science Innovations Ruth Carr about why this confidence gap is affecting girls from an early age.
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