Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada
International Day of the Girl 2017
Nationwide Survey of Teenage Girls in Canada


October 11 is International Day of the Girl – a day when the global community focuses on the realities facing girls and young women around the world. To commemorate this day Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada (GGC) has released the results of a nationwide survey that identifies key challenges confronting teenage girls in Canada. The issues that girls themselves identified focus on unrealistic expectations, harmful social norms and stereotypes and how society continues to perpetuate these messages to girls.


GGC commissioned this survey because the issues facing girls are integral to who we are as a girl-driven organization. Given how quickly the world is changing for girls today, it is more important than ever to actively listen to their voices and use the information we hear to be responsive and develop relevant programs. We need to understand what girls in Canada are facing so we can be the support they need to become everything they want to be.

By the Numbers

Listening to Girls

In April 2017, 150 girls aged 15-17 from across Canada came together in Toronto for GGC's girls' conference – Ignite. Inspire. Innovate. They had a lot to say about their lives, concerns and priorities and what they need from GGC. Their stories were poignant and powerful – and we heard them loud and clear.
Building on this, GGC commissioned a nationwide survey of girls aged 15-17. The results confirm that teenage girls across the country experience the same challenges identified by GGC girl members – and these challenges are negatively impacting their self-esteem:

Unrealistic Expectations, Harmful Stereotypes and Mixed Messages

  • 59% of girls feel pressure from society – through the media, social media, friends, parents, and teachers – to conform to unrealistic standards about what it means to be "a girl"
  • Despite seeing beauty standards in the media or social media as unrealistic, a majority of girls (60%) say they feel pressure to conform to them
  • 55% report that trying to meet social expectations about how they should look or act has negatively impacted their self-esteem – this increases significantly to 71% among heavy users of social media (those who regularly use six social media platforms)
  • Some girls report being treated differently by adults as a result of their gender:
    • 41% said they know a girl who reported being harassed but wasn't believed
    • 19% report being treated differently in class by a teacher
  • 56% of girls agree that they get mixed messages about how they're supposed to act and behave, and look and dress – this increase to 66% among girls who identify as Asian, Indigenous or Black
    • Nearly one in five of those surveyed feel peer pressure to be both thin or lose weight AND have a "curvy" body type.

Impact on Girls' Behaviour and Motivations

  • 59% of girls surveyed believe that societal pressure to conform extends to expectations of how they should look, dress, speak, or act – this is impacting their behaviour
    • 30% of girls have avoided or considered stopping an activity or sport they like because not many girls participate – this increases to 40% among girls who identify as Asian, Indigenous or Black
    • Nearly two in ten girls (16%) hide the fact that they like Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) for fear of being rejected by their peers
  • While there are more women in the workforce today than ever before, there are still factors preventing some girls from pursuing their dream job
    • One in four girls (25%) say they don't know any female role models who have their dream job
    • More than one in ten girls (14%) say they have faced expectations to follow a career path that is considered traditionally female, such as nursing, teaching, or social work
  • Some girls don't feel motivated to pursue their dream career because:
    • They're concerned they will be compensated less than male counterparts (24%)
    • They're concerned they will be treated worse because of their gender (19%)

Who We Heard From

Survey respondents included a range of ethnicities, household incomes and geographic regions and communities to reflect the overall population of girls aged 15-17 in Canada and a range of lived experiences.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos through an online poll of 523 girls in Canada aged 15-17 between August 31 and September 14, 2017. Weighting was employed to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the the overall population of girls in this age group according to Census data.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all girls in Canada aged 15-17 been polled.

News Release

News Release: Over Half of Girls in Canada Say They Face Unrealistic Expectations That Negatively Impact their Self-Esteem

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Next Steps

Currently, GGC provides programming that is responsive to many of the challenges identified by girls such as mental health, body image and self-esteem and digital media literacy. In 2018, GGC will use what we have heard from girls through this survey to develop new, refreshed programs for girls ages 5 – 17 and provide a safe space for them to explore these issues.