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: “A lot of people stay in jobs they hate. They feel stuck or need the money. I refuse to do this. I just gave up a Nursing career to be a CSR and I have never been happier.”—Female, 27, IN

YouTube is cracking down on creators that participate in dangerous viral challenges. The media giant updated their community guidelines to take a stronger stance against stunts that spin out of control—like the Tide Pod Challenge. Any creator that performs “pranks that make victims believe they’re in serious physical danger” will earn a strike—three and they’re out. What could constitute a strike? Just ask Jake Paul, who recently drove blindfolded for the #BirdBoxChallenge. (The Verge)

The inner five-year-old of Millennials everywhere is jumping up and down for Hot Topic’s Polly Pocket collab. In partnership with Mattel, the brand that wins at delivering unique styles is dropping a 17-piece collection of nostalgic merch. (The line looks a lot like another throwback collection we called out last year.) In celebration of the iconic toy’s 30th birthday (feel old yet?), ‘90s kids can cop everything from bags to hats to mini makeup palettes that feature shades like “Made in the 90s.” (Nylon)

YouTubers Life OMG! is like The Sims for a generation of aspiring social media stars. Players can pretend to be a video game streamer, a passionate creative, or another influencer. But the game is just as realistic as the kids who play it, making them do chores and deliver newspapers when they’re off the air. Similarly, most kids seem to know the dream is not a full-time gig; just take it from nine-year-old Oliver, who explains, “Of course I will have a good job as well, not just YouTube." (Vice)

Big brands are swooping in to save young shoppers from 2018’s oat milk shortage. The buzzy beverage has become the environmentally friendly alternative to almond milk for Millennial & Gen Z shoppers seeking dairy-free and vegan options. It became a barista favorite this year, mainly thanks to industry upstart, Oatly, which is opening a new factory to up their production. But they better hurry: big brands like Pepsi Co.’s Quaker Oats, Danone’s Silk, and Califia Farms are all getting in on this grain-based trend. (Bloomberg)

The most old-fashioned form of TV is experiencing a surge: over-the-air. While the Post-TV Gen continue to cut the cord, more are buying physical antennas to tap free networks and watch live events. Nielsen data found that this kind of old-school appointment viewing jumped from 9% of all homes in 2010 to 14% last year. Diving deeper into that 14%, about three in five also subscribe to streaming services like Netflix, and their median age is 36. (Fortune)

Quote of the Day: “I’d rather do a job I'm passionate about for a lower salary than do a high-paying but low-rewarding job.”—Male, 18, MA

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