Biased Views of Girls Begin as Early as Fourth Grade, New Save the Children Survey Reveals

Nearly 40 percent of American fourth-grade boys believe boys are smarter than girls

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FAIRFIELD, Conn. (October 10, 2017)— Biased views on the value of girls and their roles within the classroom and society begin to show as early as fourth grade, according to new data released today by Save the Children. The global humanitarian organization, which surveyed boys and girls in the United States and the West African nations of Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, found that a striking number of young boys – and even many girls – believe fathers rule the household, boys are smarter than girls and girls need less school than boys.

Launched to coincide with International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, the new data indicates that girls are significantly less valued than their male peers, even in these very different regions of the world.

In the survey, Save the Children asked fourth graders whether or not they agree with a series of questions about education and power dynamics between males and females. In the United States, 37 percent of fourth-grade boys believe that boys are smarter than girls, whereas in the districts in Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire where these data were collected, two out of three fourth-grade boys surveyed agreed with this sentiment. Surprisingly, in both the United States and the sites surveyed in West Africa, more than one in five fourth-grade girls report needing less school than boys (22 percent in the U.S., 25 percent in Sierra Leone).

These stereotypes carry over to the role women play within their families and communities as well. The overwhelming majority of boys (94 percent) and girls (92 percent) surveyed in Sierra Leone think that the father is in charge of the home, compared with more than one-third of American fourth graders who agree. In regions of Côte d’Ivoire surveyed as well as across the United States, approximately two-thirds of fourth graders report that moms are more responsible than dads for taking care of the children. In the United States, the research found that these views not only apply to the home, but also the workplace, with 17 percent of American fourth graders believing a man would make a better boss than a woman.

"Girls are worth far more than what the world tells them," said Carolyn Miles, president & CEO of Save the Children. "Globally, we know that girls are more likely than boys to miss out on school, experience violence and live in poverty. That is why we need to invest in their education and do everything possible to delay early marriage and motherhood. By providing children equal opportunities and access to learning, every girl can realize what she’s truly worth."

The research in Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire sought to evaluate the impact of Save the Children’s School Me program, which aims to empower girls, boys, teachers, families and community members to address biased gender perceptions and promote positive change. In the United States, Save the Children works in rural, isolated communities to ensure girls and boys succeed in school and in life.

"Save the Children is committed to reaching every last child, regardless of who they are or where they live," said Mark Shriver, Senior Vice President, U.S. Programs & Advocacy, Save the Children. "We know the enormous challenges that children growing up in rural America face – we began our domestic work in Appalachia in 1932. That’s why today, Save the Children specifically serves these rural communities and calls for significant investment in our nation’s forgotten children."

In 2017, girls around the world are still frequently marginalized in their families, communities and societies because of who they are or where they were born. They face discrimination, lack equal opportunities and earn less money – their lives and futures aren’t given the value they deserve. Save the Children analysis revealed that a girl under 15 is married every seven seconds. International Day of the Girl is a day dedicated to highlighting barriers and empowering girls to reach their full potential.

Parents of fourth graders in the United States also were surveyed about their perceptions on gender. These additional findings were alarming and revealed that 50 percent of parents believe the father controls the household. More than one-fifth think that men should make more money than women and more than a quarter of fathers think it is more important for boys to get an education than girls.

Added Miles, "If girls are ever going to truly value themselves – and be valued – the same as boys, the U.S. government, nonprofits, corporations and everyday citizens need to advocate together on their behalf. On International Day of the Girl, Save the Children is calling on everyone to prioritize equal education for every last girl, and to help bring an end to child marriage and gender discrimination. Because a girl who knows her own value can change the course of her life, her family’s life and the future of her community."

Save the Children is releasing the survey findings ahead of an African-led conference on ending child marriage later this month in Dakar, Senegal. The West and Central Africa High-Level Meeting on Ending Child Marriage (Oct. 23-25) will see government leaders, traditional, religious and other influential leaders, child rights organizations, youth and UN agencies come together to discuss solutions to end this harmful practice, such as legal reforms and targeted interventions to enable girls to remain in school as a viable alternative to marriage.

To learn more about Save the Children’s investment in girls, visit www.savethechildren.org/girls.

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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