Today’s post is from OECD Deputy Secretary-General Stefan Kapferer
“In a world in search of growth, women will help find it, if they face a level playing field instead of an insidious conspiracy.” Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, didn’t mince words last week when she called for dismantling the legal barriers that prevent many women around the world from participating in their economies. She framed her argument in economic terms, saying that a previous study found that having as many women as men in the labour force could boost economic growth by 5% in the United States, 9% in Japan and 34% in Egypt.
A new PISA report, The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence (pdf), shows that the barriers against women’s full participation in the work force are not necessarily written into law. They can be as seemingly innocuous as parents’ expectations for their daughter’s future or students’ beliefs in their own abilities.
For example, the report, released today, finds that less than 5% of 15-year-old girls in OECD countries contemplate pursuing a career in engineering or computing, while 20% of boys do. What accounts for this gender difference in career expectations? PISA finds that girls – even high-achieving girls – have less confidence in their abilities in mathematics and science, and are more anxious towards mathematics, than boys. On average across OECD countries, the difference in mathematics performance between high-achieving girls and boys is 19 PISA score points, the equivalent of around half a year of school. But when comparing boys and girls who reported similar levels of self-confidence in mathematics and of anxiety towards mathematics, the gender gap in performance disappears. If girls don’t believe in their aptitude for certain subjects, why would they continue to study those subjects when they are no longer required to?
The study also finds that, when required to “think like scientists” at school, girls underperform considerably compared to boys. For example, girls tend to underachieve compared to boys when they are asked to formulate situations mathematically. On average across OECD countries, boys outperform girls in this skill by around 16 PISA score points – the equivalent of nearly five months of school. Boys also outperform girls – by 15 score points – in the ability to apply their knowledge of science to a given situation. This gender difference in the ability to think like a scientist may be related to students’ self-confidence. When students are more self-confident, they give themselves the freedom to fail, to engage in the trial-and-error processes that are fundamental to acquiring knowledge in mathematics and science.
More worrying still is the fact that, in 2012, 14% of boys and 9% of girls did not attain the PISA baseline level of proficiency in any of the three core subjects measured in PISA – reading, mathematics and science. Why are boys more likely to be among the lowest achievers in school? The report finds that gender differences in school performance are linked to gender differences in student behaviour, both in and outside of school. For example, boys spend one hour less per week on homework than girls – and each hour of homework per week translates into a 4-point higher score in the PISA reading, mathematics and science tests. Outside of school, boys spend more time playing video games than girls and less time reading for enjoyment, particularly complex texts, like fiction. Reading proficiency is the foundation upon which all other learning is built; when boys don’t read well, their performance in other school subjects suffers too.
While the report makes clear that there are no innate gender differences in academic ability, it also shows that, unfortunately, there are also no gender gaps in how well – or badly – prepared 15-year-olds are to enter the working world or continue their studies after compulsory education. PISA shows that girls are more likely than boys to get information about future studies or careers through Internet research, while boys are more likely than girls to get hands-on experience by working as interns, job shadowing or visiting a job fair. But across the OECD countries that distributed a questionnaire about career expectations, almost one in four girls and one in five boys reported that they did not know how to search for a job. Some 43% of girls and 37% of boys reported that they had not mastered the skills needed to perform well at a job interview; and almost one in three boys and girls reported that they had not acquired the skills needed to write a CV or a summary of their qualifications.
So how can we dismantle some of these barriers to boys’ and girls’ personal fulfilment and to their full participation in their societies later on? The report emphasises that parents and teachers can become more aware of their own gender biases. For example, why is it that in all countries and economies surveyed about parents’ expectations for their children were parents more likely to expect their sons, rather than their daughters, to work in a STEM field – even when boys and girls perform equally well in mathematics and science? Why is it that teachers consistently give girls better marks, even when boys and girls perform similarly on the PISA test? And why aren’t employers seeking and welcoming equal numbers of girls and boys for internships or job shadowing?
As this report makes clear, we are all responsible for giving our children equal chances to succeed in school and in life. Not only does it make economic sense, it is simply the right thing to do.
Why boys and girls still don’t have an equal chance at school on the educationtoday blog
Today’s post is by Gaël Brulé, PhD student at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Scientific Director of Spinoza Factory
Is happiness a woman ? That is at least what Nietzsche wrote in Thus spoke Zarathustra, a philosophical poem in which Zarathustra (the Persian name of Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, an old Iranian religious philosophy) ironically says “Happiness runs after me, because I do not run after women. Happiness is the woman itself”.
This may seem a bit opaque, especially when you know the complicated relationship Nietzsche had with women, but nonetheless it is interesting to observe that in the scientific literature, the vast majority of happiness studies seem to indicate that women are happier than men, even if recent studies show that this gap in gender happiness has eroded in the last decades. They are happier married, happier when single, at work and pretty much throughout their life; only retired and divorced men seem slightly happier than their feminine counterparts.
If the results seem to go pretty much all in the same direction, it is thus legitimate and interesting to wonder why this is the case and, going a bit further, to see if we can give happiness a sex or a gender. Let’s see if values can shed light on this difference in happiness. Sociologist Geert Hofstede has defined a range of indicators to compare cultures in countries according to several criteria, such as power distance, individualism, uncertainty avoidance and masculinity /femininity values. Arrindell and Veenhoven have shown that feminine values are more conducive to happiness than masculine values.
Hofstede defined the masculine values as linked to action, hierarchy, duty, power and nationalism, whereas feminine values encompass collaboration, intuition, community and egalitarianism. These criteria are very commonly used and at the same regularly criticized. The way they are measured can, indeed, be seen as ethnocentric with western criteria. The way the indicators are built can easily be questioned and the fact that they can overshadow local differences has been highlighted.
Furthermore, the actual labeling of the indexes might be debated and in particular the masculine/feminine one. Unless it is proven otherwise, these values seem mostly socially constructed, not “natural”, but these labels seem to indicate that there is something natural in the values attributed to men and women. As Georges Orwell famously wrote in his book 1984, ‘if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought’. Therefore, it might be relevant to change the labels of the two sets of values: the “feminine” cohesive values might be called horizontal values whereas the differentiating, comparative, “masculine” values could be seen as vertical values. After this semantic reflection, let’s explore what these values can reveal in terms of happiness.
The scientific literature shows that too much hierarchy isn’t a good basis for happiness to flourish. Too much competition has also been shown to hinder happiness, whereas the positive effects of collaboration on happiness have largely been proved. The “masculine” values are also linked to external values such as social status and materialism, which are negatively correlated with happiness (money is positively correlated with happiness, up to a point, but actively seeking it is not). The “feminine” societal matrix seems, therefore, a more fertile ground for happiness than the masculine one. Thus, the difference in happiness between the two sexes might be due to a difference in happiness between genders.
A macro-study shows a particularly revealing view: when comparing the countries on Hofstede’s male/female scale, one realizes that all the happiest countries are those whose structure is the most horizontal (Sweden, Denmark, Iceland), while countries endorsing vertical, “masculine” values (for instance Japan) are typically much lower in terms of happiness.
At first sight, men seem to largely benefit from a system that has been built by the patriarchate. Men are overrepresented in big companies, governments, prestigious positions. Iin brief, they largely occupy practically every high position and keep the key positions of the current economic system. Then how could men be less happy than women? Would men be the first victims of a system created by the patriarchate? One could wonder. Indeed, for instance, the very DNA of capitalism is largely anchored in “masculine” values: maximization of profits, struggle for prestige, competition.
By strictly separating gender roles – production roles for men, support roles for women – on top of keeping women away from the highest positions, has the patriarchate forced men to endorse values that handicap them in terms of happiness? It seems so. At a micro level, structures that leave the most space for women see not only their level of happiness rising, but also men’s level of happiness. From a certain “masculine” (as socially constructed) point of view, happiness is a zero-sum game, a win-lose situation. From a “feminine” point of view it is rather an expansive resource that can increase when shared.
This could encourage people who are afraid of gender studies to follow the path of leveling differences between genders. Down the path, more happiness for men and women. Letting go of the framework of the past can be hard and might hurt, but gentlemen, let us express our feminine side, it’s probably the best way towards happiness, for women, for us, for society.
“How abominable before God is the Empire or Rule of Wicked Woman, yea, of a traitress and bastard.” That’s the opening of John Knox’s 1558 diatribe The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women in which he explains that “To promote a Woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire above any realm, nation or city is:
A. Repugnant to nature.
B. Contumely to God.
C. The subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.”
In fact, it’s not a multiple choice, all these are the correct answer.
He helpfully points out that “Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man, not to rule and command him.”
How much has changed since, and how much do you know about it? Try the quiz to find out. If you’d like some help finding the answers, try the following:
DAC network on gender equality “the only international forum where experts from development co-operation agencies meet to define common approaches in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
Social Institutions and Network Index (SIGI) “first launched by the OECD Development Centre in 2009 as an innovative measure of the underlying drivers of gender inequality for over 100 countries. Instead of measuring gender gaps in outcomes such as employment and education, the SIGI instead captures discriminatory social institutions”
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International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, it’s all one to you, isn’t it?
You’re a manly man, or a womanly woman, and you think doing the dishes is a threat to manhood.
You think ladies should be treated well, but those women’s libbers are nothing but troublemakers.
If your son asked for a Barbie doll for his birthday, you’d refuse, not for the same reason as people who score less on the quiz, but because of this.
Question 1 of 15
If participation rates in the labour force for women were to reach those of men by 2030 in OECD countries, GDP would be boosted by:Correct
And inequalities exist even when they are in the labour force. In OECD countries men earn on average 16% more than women in similar full-time jobs. At the top of the pay scale, the gender gap is even higher, 21%, suggesting the continued presence of a glass ceiling. The average pay gap between men and women widens to 22% in families with one or more children. For couples without children, the gap is 7%. Overall the wage penalty for having children is on average 14%, with Japan and Korea showing the greatest gap, while Italy and Spain have almost none.
The impact of pay inequality is dramatic over a woman’s lifetime. Having worked less in formal employment, but having carried out much more unpaid work at home, many women will retire on lower pensions and see out their final years in poverty. Living an average of nearly 6 years longer than men, women over 65 are today more than one and a half times more likely to live in poverty than men in the same age bracket.Incorrect
Question 2 of 15
Who asked the jury if “they would let their wife or servants read this kind of book”?Correct
Yes, and on hearing Griffith-Jones’ question, the rest of the prosecution team started quoting Lawrence, or at least they were heard muttering “Oh f*ck”. Anyway, it turned out that the jury would let their wives, servants and anybody else read it, and the book was published shortly afterwards.
Since then, though it may not be related, girls outperform boys nearly everywhere in PISA’s reading tests, and between 2000 and 2012 the gender gap in reading performance in favour of girls widened in 11 countries. If you’d like to find out whether you’re smarter than a 15 year-old, try the PISA test.Incorrect
But he could have.
Question 3 of 15
Computer programming was invented by:Correct
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, wrote the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine, Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, around 1843. The Ada programming language is named in honour of her. Today however, only 20% of students in computer science courses are women and only 14% of patents are filed by women.
On the educationtoday blog, Marilyn Achiron looks at women’s absence from STEM occupations.Incorrect
You must restart the question to find the correct answer
Question 4 of 15
Which of the following was NOT used as an argument against women’s suffrage:Correct
That’s right, although that said, this argument or something similar probably was used, but we couldn’t find any documentary evidence. What we did find though, looking at OECD’s Women in Government data, is that in 2012, women accounted for only 26.8% of parliamentarians and 24.9% of ministers in OECD countries.Incorrect
But we had trouble finding a right answer for this question ourselves.
Question 5 of 15
Who said “There are some wonderful sports which you can do and perform to a very high level and I think those participating look absolutely radiant and very feminine such as ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”Correct
Helen Grant’s statement, reported here, is at odds with the conclusions of a WHO report on Girls’ participation in physical activities and sport that “rather than focusing on ‘girl-friendly’ sports, we should be looking for ways to make sports and other physical activities more ‘child-friendly’ and ‘youth-friendly’.
Lack of physical activity is one of the causes of obesity, but OECD Fit not Fat study of the subject found that in most countries, boys have higher rates of overweight and obesity than girls. Girls tend to have higher rates in Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark), as well as in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia.Incorrect
It sounds like it should have been, but no.
Question 6 of 15
How is a school dropout from a poor family helping to tackle a major women’s health issue in India, improving girls’ educational enrollment and fighting rural poverty at the same time?Correct
As this BBC report explains, Arunachalam Muruganantham invented a simple machine rural women can use to make cheap sanitary pads. Poor menstrual hygiene is the cause of 70% of all reproductive diseases in India, and 23% of girls drop out of education once they start menstruating. The machine also provides jobs for rural women.Incorrect
Question 7 of 15
International Working Women’s Day was proposed in Copenhagen in 1910 by Clara Zetkin at the first international women’s conference organised by the Socialist International. The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February 1909. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March 1975, during International Women’s Year.
The date is linked to the history of the day. International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job. In 1913-1914, as part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists. In 1917, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar).Incorrect
You’ll find the right answer here.
Question 8 of 15
The PISA tests show that girls are usually more worried about solving a maths problem than boys, but in one language group tested, the boys are more anxious than the girls:Correct
Boys in all the Arabic-speaking countries tested reported “feeling helpless when doing a maths problem” more than girls maths, but they’re not alone – that’s the case in a quarter of the countries surveyed. However, boys in general ouperform girls in maths by the equivalent of three months in school. That doesn’t mean girls can’t do well: girls in Shanghai outperform boys in every other school system in the PISA at maths. You can find out more here.Incorrect
Question 9 of 15
The world’s biggest-ever survey on violence against women was published this week showing the extent of the problem in EU member countries. It shows that 33% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15 (62 million women); 22% have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner; 5% of all women have been raped; 43% have experienced some form of psychological violence by either a current or a previous partner; and 33% have childhood experiences of physical or sexual violence at the hands of an adult. Which country reports the highest rates of violence against women:Correct
One of the most surprising results is that countries with a good reputation on women’s issues come out worst in the survey. In Denmark 52% of women report suffering physical or sexual violence, with Finland (47%), and Sweden (46%) coming second and third. However, the report’s authors suggest five explanations for observed differences between countries which require further exploration:
1) The extent to which it is culturally acceptable to talk to other people about experiences of violence against women, including to survey interviewers.
2) Higher levels of gender equality could lead to higher levels of disclosure about violence against women, as incidents of violence against women are more likely to be openly addressed and challenged in societies with greater equality.
3) Women’s exposure to risk factors for violence can be examined at the Member State level with respect to factors that might increase exposure to violence, such as patterns in employment (working outside the home) as well as socialisation and lifestyle patterns (going out or dating).
4) Differences between countries in overall levels of violent crime, which need to be examined alongside findings on violence against women. For example, a greater degree of urbanisation in a country is generally related to higher crime rates.
5) As there is evidence, including in this survey, of a relationship between perpetrators’ drinking habits and women’s experiences of domestic violence, different drinking patterns in Member States may help to explain certain aspects of violence against women.Incorrect
The results are surprising, and clicking on the correct answer (Denmark) will show you fuller details and explanations. Unfortunately, the software doesn’t allow you simply to redo the question, you have to start the quiz again.
Question 10 of 15
In which country do men spend the most time eating, sleeping and making themselves look pretty?Correct
Italian men spend almost half the day (11 hours and 37 minutes) looking after themselves according to OECD data on time spent on personal care. And in a dramatic announcement when the results became known, the OECD also revealed that overall, women spend more time than men on unpaid work like shopping or housework. Turkish women spend the most time doing unpaid work at 377 minutes a day, while Korean men are either astonishingly efficient or something else, since they only spend45 minutes.Incorrect
They may be exceptionally well-dressed, well-fed, and rested, but they’re not the world champions.
Question 11 of 15
In an OECD survey of government agencies, eighteen responding agencies agreed that financial literacy was an important policy issue in their country, four disagreed and two did not know. Similarly, most also agreed that gender equality was an important policy issue in their country: seventeen agreed, two disagreed and four did not know. How many of them agreed that the need to address the financial literacy of women and girls was an important issue?Correct
Only eight respondents agreed that the need to address the financial literacy of women and girls was an important policy issue, while twelve disagreed and four did not know. The OECD gives developing countries advice on “policy coherence“. Maybe it’s time to broaden the scope.Incorrect
The results show that women have more difficulty in men with basic financial operations like calculating interest. They also show that many governments have trouble adding one policy to another.
Question 12 of 15
What is the main cause of death of women worldwide?Correct
Globally, cardiovascular disease, often thought to be a “male” problem, is the number one killer of women. Breast cancer is the leading cancer killer among women aged 20–59 years worldwide.
Ischaemic heart disease kills 96 women per 100,000 population (the same as strokes), and hypertensive heart disease another 17.
As you’d expect, there are big differences depending on income level. In low-income countries for example major killers are often absent from the top ten causes of female deaths in other places. The main causes of death in the poorest countries are lower respiratory infections (96 per 100,000 population), followed by HIV/AIDS (74) and diarrheal diseases (71). If added together, the biggest killer would be conditions linked to pregnancy and childbirth, with preterm birth complications accounting for a death rate of 49 per 100,000), maternal conditions 26, and birth asphyxia and birth trauma 25.Incorrect
In some ways this a trick question since it asks about the global trend, while cause of death is heavily influenced by factors such as age group and development status of the country, and diseases that are major killers for one set of the population are far less important or practically non-existent elsewhere. The WHO provides full details here.
Question 13 of 15
Who’s more satisfied with their life, men or women?Correct
There doesn’t seem to be much difference. The OECD carried out a survey using a scale called the Cantril ladder which asks people to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most satisfied. Although there is large variation across countries – with the gap between countries with the highest satisfaction and those with the lowest being approximately 3 points on the scale – gender doesn’t seem to play a major role in shaping people’s subjective evaluation of their own lives. Significant differences by gender are found only for employment and health status, which are stronger drivers of life satisfaction for women than they are for men. And in more news, it turns out that people who are rich and healthy are more satisfied than those who are poor and sick. Read all about it here.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, people in sunny South Africa are the most miserable, while those in gloomy Norway are the most cheerful.Incorrect
That may be true in your circle, but it’s not the case generally.
Question 14 of 15
What’s the worst country to be a woman in according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap, “designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in individual countries rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities in those countries […] in order to make the Global Gender Gap Index independent from the countries’ levels of development.”?Correct
Yemen comes last of the 136 countries ranked by the World Economic Forum according to “gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria”. Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden occupy the first four places, and OECD countries take eight out of the top ten, with the Philippines coming in at number 5 and Nicaragua at 10.
The spoof magazine cover is one of three produced by Catapult, a US-based crowdfunding site for International Women’s Day. If you click on the image, you’ll see the full story in The Guardian. Among the statistics quoted are these:
14m girls — some as young as eight years old — will be married against their will in 2014.
An estimated 1.2m children are trafficked into slavery each year; 80% are girls.
In New York City, the average age at which a girl first becomes a victim of commercial sexual exploitation is 13.Incorrect
The World Economic Forum doesn’t agree with you.
Question 15 of 15
South Africa’s Sexual Violence Research Initiative has produced a briefing paper on Modifying Gender Role Stereotypes in Children. It says that: “Parents convey expectations of gender role conformity starting in infancy , with one study finding that parents hold gender-typed expectations of their sons and daughters in the first 24 hours following birth. Another found that children show an awareness of their parents’ communication about gender roles from two to two-and-a-half years of age, with the early provision of gender-differentiated toy selection typically reflecting parental stereotypes”Incorrect
You seem to have misheard. Listen more closely.
A friend has just bought glittery pink shoes for her sister’s children. Can you guess whether they’re boys or girls? Of course you can! Pink is for girls (and so is glittery). But that wasn’t always the case. In 1918, Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department (a magazine for retail professionals) explained that “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
That’s why the Virgin Mary wears blue, as do Cinderella and Snow White in Disney’s 1950 and 1937 cartoons. On a far more sinister note, the Nazis made male homosexuals wear pink triangles, since the colour’s masculine connotations associated it with a preference for men. (Lesbians wore the black triangle of “asocials”, a group that included women who had had abortions and prostitutes).
You can find out more about when pink became girly in Jeanne Maglaty’s article for the Smithsonian. The point is, it happened recently and for reasons that are linked to commerce and other social behaviours, not genetics. Stereotyping, whether positive or negative, is insidious, helping to reinforce the idea that some kinds of discrimination and oppression are somehow “natural” – the mother not the father should stay at home to look after a sick child because women are better carers, for instance. Then if you have to choose between a man and a woman for a promotion you can say objectively that a man will be more available and take less time off.
Aaron Kay of Duke University and his colleagues have just published the results of an experimental study of how stereotypes influence judgement. They found that people exposed to positive stereotypes towards African Americans were more likely to apply negative stereotypes too, and to believe in biological explanations of group differences.
Combating stereotypes will involve “changing norms, culture, mindsets, and attitudes” as it says in the introduction to a session at today’s OECD Gender Forum on “Closing the gender gap”. The main theme of the conference is the economy, and the main argument is that discriminating against women is not only immoral, it’s a waste of money. Government ministers, business leaders and members of civil society will be talking about what they should do to “achieve gender equality in economic opportunities”.
The picture in the top left corner of this article is a good summary of the scale of the task. It’s the cover of the book being launched at today’s meeting and illustrates the fact that when you establish a dichotomy, you imply a hierarchy. Try it with some neutral-sounding pairs to begin with: above-below; written-spoken; inside-outside. Now have look at the book and frame what you see in terms of word couples. There are three adult males and three female children. The men are higher up. The one black person of the six is lower down. One of the men is either holding out a helping hand or warning the one girl actually doing anything that the ladder she’s using to bridge the gap is too short.
Most of the OECD recommendations on what to do are consensual (address cultural barriers, provide affordable, good-quality childcare for all parents…) but I imagine there’ll be a lively debate around others, including what some see as flagship reforms. For example, the Financial Times reported in September that many businesses and some governments oppose EU plans to have quotas of women directors on the boards of listed companies. Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI employers’ group, backed the UK government’s line, saying: “We are not convinced that EU quotas will be anything other than a token gesture.” Others argue that women at the top would act just the same as their male colleagues anyway and that for somebody losing their job, knowing there was a woman’s touch to getting fired isn’t any comfort.
In other words, the division between men and women is one of many in our society and any victory in the fight against sexual discrimination will only be partial if it’s achieved in isolation from efforts to overcome other forms of inequality.
Young people’s lives are busier than ever before, with many activities and interests vying for their time outside of school. What role does reading play in this crowded lifestyle? Findings from our latest annual literacy survey of 21,000 8 to 16-year olds in the UK, published this month in our report Children and Young People’s Reading Today, suggest that reading plays an increasingly lesser role in young people’s leisure time, for example the frequency with which young people read. We found that only 30.8% of young people said that they read daily in their own time in 2011 compared with 38.1% in 2005. Conversely, more than a fifth of children and young people (21.6%) rarely or never read in their own time in 2011, up from 15.4% in 2005.
While fewer young people now read daily, we intriguingly also found that the proportion of children and young people who enjoy reading very much or quite a lot has remained static since 2005 (50% today vs 51% in 2005). These findings together suggest a clear issue with children and young people’s leisure time, with many children and young people enjoying reading but pushing it out in favour of other activities.
It isn’t the case that young people have shifted their reading patterns from paper to digital formats as a comparison of reading choices in 2005 and 2011 showed that, with the exception of text messages, reading across all formats, including technology-based reading, has fallen. For example, 77% of children and young people read magazines in 2005 while now just 57% do; comic reading has dropped from 64% to 50%; and reading on websites from 64% to 50%.
In line with numerous other studies, we also found that girls are more likely than boys to make time for reading, with 35.3% of girls saying that they read outside of class every day compared with 26.3% of boys (issues surrounding boys’ reading in the UK today are discussed here). However, our surveys – in line with OECD PISA international comparison data – show that the gap between boys and girls in terms of their daily reading has widened in recent years. For example, in 2005, 35% of boys and 42% of girls said that they read daily outside of class.
Not only are girls more likely than boys to read daily, they are also more likely to enjoy it than boys. Nearly twice as many girls as boys say that they enjoy reading very much (27.6% vs. 18.3%), with 56.7% of girls enjoying reading either very much or quite a lot compared with only 43.8% of boys. Conversely, nearly twice as many boys as girls say that they don’t enjoy reading at all (14.6% vs. 8.3%).
The gender gap in reading enjoyment is not just a UK phenomenon; instead, it is corroborated by numerous studies that all show that boys enjoy reading less than girls. For example, PISA showed that across OECD countries, just over half of 15-year-old boys (52%) said that they read for enjoyment compared with nearly three-quarters of girls (73%). However, the gender difference remains wider in 2011 than in 2005 (where the percentage point gap between boys and girls who enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot was 10.7). The PISA question is a combined reading enjoyment and reading frequency question, which might account for the different proportions of boys and girls who say that they enjoy reading compared with our survey.
Girls and boys also read different materials outside of class. More girls than boys say that they not only read technology-based formats, such as text messages, messages on social networking sites, emails and instant messages, but also that they read more “traditional” texts, such as fiction and poems as well as magazines and lyrics. By contrast, more boys than girls say that they read non-fiction, newspapers, comics and manuals. Girls’ penchant for technology-based materials is not simply explained by girls having greater access to computers or the internet than boys. Our survey also showed that roughly the same proportion of boys and girls say that they either own a computer (boys 72.1%; girls 74.0%), have access to one (boys 96.4%; girls 97.0%) or have the internet at home (boys 96.3%; girls 96.3%).
One other area that we would like to highlight here relates to ethnic background. We compared data on broad ethnic groups and found that the relationships between reading and ethnic background are complex. For example, young people from White backgrounds enjoy reading considerably less (White 49.4%; Mixed race 56.8%; Asian/Asian British 58.2%; Black/Black British 60.7%), and read daily less often (White 30.7%; Mixed race 34.2%; Asian/Asian British 32.6%; Black/Black British 38.3%). They are also less likely to agree that reading is “cool” (White 31.9%; Mixed race 37.7%; Asian/Asian British 44.1%; Black/Black British 47.4%). They are more likely to agree that they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them read (White 17.7%; Mixed race 15.6%; Asian/Asian British 13%; Black/Black British 12.3%). Young people from White backgrounds are also more likely to agree that they prefer watching TV to reading (White 54.5%; Mixed race 50.3%; Asian/Asian British 46.8%; Black/Black British 50.7%).
We believe it is essential to make the time for children and young people to read as the research also shows a clear link between reading outside of class and their achievement. It found that young people who read outside of class daily were 13 times more likely to read above the expected level for their age.
We hope this research will increase interest in children’s and young people’s reading habits and encourage government, families and those working with children and young people to help make reading part of a young person’s daily activities. To find out more about our research and the activities we undertake to address literacy issues in the UK and how you could become involved, see our website.
The American Library in Paris is organising a discussion on 25 September at 19:30 with the author of Let’s Read Them a Story, Francesca Borgonovi, and Peter Gumbel, author of On achève bien les ecoliers, to learn more about the book and what you can concretely do to help your children in school and beyond.
Today’s post is contributed by Chiara Monticone and Flore-Anne Messy of the OECD’s Financial Affairs Division
International Women’s Day traditionally attracts media attention to differences between men and women, such as the number of women on company boards, income gaps, and so on. However, awareness of gender differences in financial literacy and of their potential implications has remained quite low even though policy makers now recognise financial literacy as an essential life-skill, and financial education has become an important policy priority as a complement to financial consumer protection, inclusion and prudential regulation. The G20 Mexican Presidency for example has called on the OECD to develop High Level Principles on National Strategy for Financial Education that are expected to be approved by G20 leaders in June 2012.
A new working paper from the OECD’s Financial Affairs Division, Empowering Women through Financial Awareness and Education, reveals that women perform worse than men on tests of financial knowledge on average. For instance, in the US, while 60-70% of men can correctly answer questions about calculating interest or about inflation and risk diversification, only 50-60% of women can do so.
Moreover, women tend to be less confident about their financial skills than men in several domains. For instance, a study conducted in Australia reveals that women are generally as confident as men in their ability with everyday money management, including budgeting, saving, dealing with credit and managing debt, but that they are less confident than men when it comes to more complex issues like investing, understanding financial language and planning for retirement.
Evidence on vulnerable sub-populations suggests that women at either end of the age spectrum, low-income women, and widows may be more vulnerable to the negative consequences of low levels of financial literacy than other women, or men in the same subgroups.
This is worrying because lower levels of financial literacy can reduce women’s active participation within the economy, as well as effective personal and household financial management. Greater financial literacy could enable women to be better equipped to access and choose appropriate financial services , as well as to develop and manage entrepreneurial activities. Moreover, as women tend both to live longer and earn less than men, they are more likely to face poverty or financial hardship later in life.
All this is amplified by the fact that public policies in many countries have shifted a range of financial risks and related decisions to individual consumers. In addition, women’s lower financial literacy can reduce their economic power within the household, and the transmission of knowledge to the next generation.
A survey of authorities in developed and emerging economies reveals that some of them – including Australia, India, Lebanon, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey, the UK and the US – acknowledge the need to address the financial literacy of women and girls, and have implemented financial education programmes targeting them.
However, there is scope for improvement. Gender differences in financial literacy and behaviour should be explored further, to gain a deeper understanding of the specific aspects of financial literacy that might negatively affect the financial wellbeing of women, and design better targeted policy interventions. For instance, more needs to be learnt about why women’s levels of financial literacy are lower than men’s.
The OECD International Network on Financial Education (INFE) is working to address these issues by collecting and analysing internationally comparable data using the OECD/INFE Financial Literacy Core Questionnaire for adults and the 2012 PISA Financial Literacy international option for 15 year olds; identifying and comparing effective financial education programmes; and developing high-level policy analysis.
8 March is the centenary of International Women’s Day. This year, we mark the occasion with a series of blog posts about initiatives to strengthen gender equality worldwide. In this post, Estelle Loiseau from the OECD Development Centre describes the OECD’s Wikigender project.
Today, Wikigender celebrates its third birthday. Launched on International Women’s Day by the OECD Development Centre three years ago, this web 2.0 knowledge sharing platform focusing on gender equality issues has become a global reference point.
Originally set up to bring the debate on gender equality closer to individuals by fostering opportunities for data sharing on measures of gender equality, Wikigender has now become a lively virtual space where academics, gender experts, policy makers, statisticians, economists, development practitioners and students can actively participate and contribute to the platform on a variety of gender equality issues. (more…)