Feature Article - FACTBase Bulletin 62


The Committee’s latest FACTBase Bulletin – Filling the Pool Starts Early: Learnings from Queensland, provides new information on the issue of gender equality, a key part of our advocacy agenda. It reports on the findings of the ‘Hands up for Gender Equality’ study, the aim of which was to examine gender differences in overall self-confidence, self-confidence development and career interests.

Written by the author of the Committee’s landmark Filling the Pool major report Dr Terry Fitzsimmons, the study was initiated based on the findings from previous research that identified the critical role of confidence in the career progression of women and the origins of self-confidence from childhood and adolescence.

The study was conducted within 13 top-matriculating single-sex schools in Queensland with more than 10,000 students between the ages of 13-17. Given the similarities between Western Australia’s and Queensland’s economies, the Bulletin reflects on findings that could be useful to WA.

Importantly, the Bulletin identified no significant differences between boys and girls in overall self-confidence. In addition, it was found that boys and girls derive equal amounts of self-confidence from the same activities, the highest generators being travel, team sport and participation in leadership roles/leadership development activities. Additional activities found to generate self-confidence included having a part-time job and being able to complete activities unsupervised.

The study identified some key differences between boys and girls in terms of the activities they participate in. Across all ages, girls spend more time studying per week, whilst boys are given more outdoor chores to complete and are spending more time overall on outdoor activities. Interestingly, boys were identified to benefit from 1.5 times the amount of campus space compared to girls and 3 times the amount of outdoor play space.

In terms of careers and future work prospects, girls expressed more enthusiasm for their career interests and in their identified reasons for wanting to work than boys, whereas awareness of parents’ careers and qualifications begins earlier for boys and remains greater than girls throughout high school. Whilst girls and boys significantly differ in their career interests upon entering high school, which remain robust and largely unchanged throughout, the top three reasons for wanting to work are identical for boys and girls. These included ‘having a secure job and income’; ‘enjoying the tasks I work on’; and ‘using my talents’.

The Committee launched this important piece of research to members and guests at a Perth in Focus event during March. Attendees received a hard copy of the Bulletin, which can also be accessed here.

Some key takeaways from the event included:

  • Boys dominated the areas of technology, chemistry and physics whilst girls were more interested in social services and healthcare.
  • Self confidence remains equal between boys and girls until 9 years old and drops off in females until late in life. Men’s self confidence declines once leaving the workforce due to a feeling of lack of purpose.
  • Career choices are established early in adolescence.
  • Parents and schools need to work in collaboration to address the systemic gender divide in career aspirations.

Other articles from Insight, April 2019 (view email newsletter):