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Aspirations, literacy and gender

Added 08 Mar 2020

This report provides a comprehensive understanding of aspirations and explores the link between aspirations, literacy and gender for young people as well as adults.

We surveyed 2,317 young people aged 11 to 17 through BounceTogether, ran 11 focus groups in five schools, and polled 2,000 adults through OnePoll to explore:

  • How young people and adults define aspirations
  • What the aspirations of young people and adults are
  • What influences the aspirations of young people and adults
  • What the perceived barriers for achieving aspirations are, and how these change over time
  • How young people and adults see the role of literacy in achieving their aspirations

We found that:

  • Young people have high academic, professional and personal hopes for their futures
  • However, around 2 in 5 young people (43%) either don’t believe or are unsure they will achieve their aspirations
  • Key gender differences emerged when it came to young people’s aspirations, the motivations behind their aspirations, and the barriers they face:
    • Girls were more likely to be motivated by wanting to help people (58.3% vs 40.5%) and do something good for the world (50.3% vs 39.6%), while boys were twice as likely to want to be famous (26.7% vs 13.6%)
    • A lack of confidence is one of the greatest barriers to realising aspirations for young people and adults, particularly for girls (55.5% vs 41.7% of boys) and women (46.6% vs 35.4% of men)
    • Girls were twice as likely to see their gender as a barrier to achieving their aspirations than boys (12.4% vs 6.4%)
    • Perceptions of gender inequality in the workplace proved a particular challenge for girls and women; more than 1 in 3 girls (34.7%) and women (39.8%) don’t think women are treated equally in the workplace compared with 1 in 5 boys (20.3%) and men (24.5%) who thought this to be the case
  • The report revealed that good literacy skills could be the key to helping young people and adults overcome these barriers, by giving them the confidence to pursue their aspirations (83.2% adults vs 65.9% young people), by helping them achieve their dream career (76.7% adults vs 40.5% young people) and by helping them reach their personal goals (69.4% adults vs 39.1% young people)

The report was inspired by our Words for Work: Women in Leadership programme, in partnership with Lancôme.

Our sincere thanks to Lancôme for the generous financial contribution that enabled us to conduct this study.

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