Teen Girls Are Less Confident Than Boys & It’s Affecting Their Futures

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketing

We teamed up with The Confidence Code for Girls to ask 8-18-year-olds all about their self-confidence and found a wide gap between boys and girls. What does it mean for their futures and how can companies help?

Confidence among sexes stays closely tied until tweens become 12-years-old—a time when many learn about deodorant, acne, body hair, and more—yes, we’re talking about puberty. Though the change can occur earlier or later, 12 is often marked as the average age boys and girls become men and women. In our study of 8-18-year-olds, it’s also the age we saw a distinct drop-off in girls’ confidence as compared to boys’.

Between ages eight and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30%

While boys’ confidence wavers as well, 12 marks the opening of a widening gap that doesn’t close throughout adolescence. At age 14, girls experience their lowest levels of self-assurance, 27% lower than boys report at the same age. Not only does their overall confidence take a nosedive, but their confidence that they can make new friends is 27% lower than boys’ as well. Girls are more likely than boys to describe themselves as stressed, anxious, shy, emotional, worried, depressed, and ugly while boys are more likely to say they’re confident, strong, adventurous, and fearless.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketing

What’s driving this trend? Unsurprisingly, the most stressed, anxious generation is under a lot of pressure. More than half of teen girls feel pressure to be perfect while three in four worry about failing. And between ages 12 and 13, the percentage of girls who say they’re not allowed to fail increases by a staggering 150%. When standards are set impossibly high, it's impossible to meet them—a vicious cycle of lowering self-confidence to which young women are more susceptible. And we can see this confidence gap affecting the way they envision their future careers.

One in three boys and girls believe that boys will make more money in life

Not only are teenagers all too aware of the wage gap, but their lack of confidence and sky-high standards for themselves are changing their entire career trajectories. Our study found that stereotypes set in as young people enter their teens: As tweens, boys' and girls' confidence that they can conquer STEM careers are virtually the same but as they age up, boys gain more confidence that they’ll succeed in the sector while girls become more confident about entering arts and humanities instead. Significantly more high school boys than girls think they would be successful in a career in math/economics or engineering as well.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketingHowever, brands big and small are working to close the confidence gap. STEM toys are trending, and some companies are taking extra care to reach young women. Kidscreen reports that Mattel unveiled several Barbie coding programs that aim to teach 10 million girls to code by 2020, while companies like Roominate and Boolean Box are creating STEM toys specifically for girls.

Many other brands are working to shut down unrealistic stereotypes about what a young women should look like in order to bolster their confidence—and Body Positive messages are resonating with consumers. Everlane is proudly showing stretch marks in their new underwear line’s marketing campaign, following in the footsteps of Aerie to push back against Victoria’s Secret-style tactics.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketing

Meanwhile, Dove and Cartoon Network teamed up for six animated shorts from the creator of hit show Steven Universe, a song, music video, and e-book—all as part of the Dove Self Esteem Project’s goal to reach 40 million people with their body positive message by 2020. One expert explains that "Appearance ideals and stereotypes are widespread in children's media” making content that “showcases a diverse and inclusive range of appearances" especially important.

Rewriting the story of what a young woman should be and what she should look like are ways companies can help the 8 in 10 girls who told us they want to feel more confident in themselves. And though that could be taken as 8 in 10 girls are lacking in self-confidence, we can also turn that around: Girls can and should feel more confident in themselves, and many are working together to make that wish a reality, including the authors of The Confidence Code for Girls, who sponsored the research and have showcased the results here

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here

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The Newsfeed

Quote of the Day: “Being famous is overrated. I would be more happy [sic] being locally known for the good I do in the world in a popular way but not for the wrong reasons.”—Female, 16, UT

Minecraft is being used to get kids interested in reading actual, real books. Litcraft recreates the world of a book as an interactive Minecraft map, adding “educational tasks” throughout. Treasure Island was the first completed world, followed by Kensuke's Kingdom, while The Lord of the Flies and Dante’s Inferno are in the works. Trials at U.K. schools are being met with “an enthusiastic response,” so Litcraft is eyeing a larger rollout. (The Guardian)

Nordstrom is stocking up on Instafamous brands like Allbirds, Everlane, and Reformation. The company announced that “strategic” brands account for about 40% of their current revenue and that’s expected to rise. While they benefit from indie brands’ popularity with young consumers, the direct-to-consumer brands are getting an expanded physical footprint, too. In the case of Reformation, Nordstrom explains that they “can bring sustainable fashion to a new (and much bigger) group of customers and closets.” (Business Insider)

A baseball team struck out with their “Millennial Night” promotion, putting Twitter in an uproar. We’ve warned brands that making fun of Millennials is not the way to get earn their spending power, and minor league baseball’s Montgomery Biscuits learned the lesson first-hand. Their “Millennial Night” offered participation ribbons, selfie stations, napping areas, and “lots of avocados,” while playing into stereotypes about Millennials being lazy. A Biscuits exec explains that “Something got lost in the sarcasm,” but instead of offering an apology, they doubled down with another cutting tweet. (AdweekInc.)

Nearly half of Millennials think that “their credit scores are holding them back.” OppLoans found that 27% of 18-34-year-olds haven’t been approved for a new car because of their credit while 25% have been declined for an apartment or house. Debt, a top financial concern for Millennials, is partly to blame: 15% said that their debt “is unmanageable.” Education could help dig them out of the hole, as 24% feel they’ve never learned how to build good credit. (Moneyish)

Baby Einstein is growing up for Millennial parents with a new mission and campaign. Their “Ignite a Curious Mind” effort goes after parents, not kids, with short spots that encourage curiosity. They’re also working on new toys, moving beyond their “sweet spot” of zero to 12 months for toddlers. Baby Einstein’s parent company, Kids II is also planning on reworking other brands, like Bright Starts and Ingenuity. (Ad Age)

Quote of the Day: “[American Eagle Outfitters’] clothes are generally what I wear and are my style. They're comfortable and affordable. They do not do a great deal of vanity sizing and offer something for guys and girls of every size.”—Female, 23, GA

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