A new international survey by Fairfield, Connecticut-based Save the Children finds that biased views of girls and their worth is already present in 4th graders.
The survey gathered data from boys and girls in the United States and the West African nations of Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire, where the group has programs to increase girls’ access to education.
The data showed that nearly 40 percent of American boys in the 4th grade believe that they are smarter than girls. In the schools surveyed in Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire, two out of three fourth grade boys agreed with that sentiment.
Save the Children’s CEO Carolyn Miles says, “You know, if you think about the things that are happening in the news today, these ideas about the values of girls versus boys start very, very young. So I think that was one of the outstanding findings in the research.”
Miles says she was surprised to find that girls in all three countries internalized this value set and thought they didn’t need as much education as boys.
“When you combine the findings, more than one in five 4th grade girls reported needing less schooling than boys. And we thought that was a really interesting finding. There really wasn’t actually a huge amount of difference between the different countries.”
The survey also revealed that parents in the U.S. harbored these views. 28 percent of fathers thought boys were smarter than girls. And nearly 40 percent of dads believed men should make more money than women.
“When you talked to moms, also you saw that in the U.S., one in five moms believed men should make more money than women. So these attitudes are pervasive.”
Miles says the survey helps to highlight the need to show girls at a young age that their value is equal to boys.