November 25, 2013
Young women today believe they have more job opportunities and a better chance of balancing parenting and a career than their mothers had at the same age, but then, for many, the picture becomes very much bleaker. A third do not believe there will ever be equal pay; a fifth say they have less respect and status in society than their mothers did; almost a third say they are less happy; and two thirds believe they are more prone to eating disorders and mental illness.
The information comes from a poll of more than 1,000 young women aged 16 to 30, which is part of a year-long review conducted in England and Wales, the results of which will be published tomorrow. The poll also reveals that 40% of young women are often lonely; 46% don’t know whom they can trust; 36% said “they often felt that they could not cope with their lives”; and one in four said that they felt they had nobody to whom they could turn when they were unable to sort out their problems by themselves.
The review also included a poll of the public conducted last week and the results of 10 focus groups by the charity formerly known as the Young Women’s Christian Association England and Wales (YWCA) and currently named Platform 51. On Wednesday it relaunches again as Young Women’s Trust (YWT). Deborah Mattinson, chair of trustees of YWT, said: “What we know from our year-long investigation is that there are over a million young women living with disadvantage in a system that offers them too few second chances. When the YWCA began its work 150 years ago, this was the group on which it focused. The new organisation is returning to that cause.”
The YWT research looked at qualifications, jobs, housing, health, family ties and outlook. While more than 58% of young women appear secure and in work, 42% are struggling with issues that include a lack of qualifications, difficult relationships with partners and family, debt, poverty, housing and depression. Five per cent of young women with degrees also suffer from depression and isolation.
“In popular culture, young women are stereotyped as a story of two halves,” said Carole Easton, YWT’s chief executive. “Either it’s about bad behaviour, having babies and benefits. Or they are portrayed as successful, salaried and sorted. The real story is quite different. Young Women’s Trust wants to challenge the stereotypes and change outcomes.”
Tammie Wingrove, 23, is resilient and articulate, despite the difficulties she faces. She is eight months’ pregnant and lives on £56 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance. Her mother died when she was seven, her father died when she was 13. A year later her stepmother threw her out. She went into care and was moved 15 times. She was diagnosed with dyslexia at 17. “Before that, teachers always said I was lazy,” she said. She returned to one of her care homes in a work placement. “I know how to handle little rude boys,” she said with a smile. “I know what it is to go to sleep with nothing and wake up with nothing.”