How does gender affect the lives of young women in Scotland?

Ceris Aston, Information and Publications Officer, YWCA - the Young Women's Movement

In this guest blog, Ceris Aston from YWCA Scotland - The Young Women's Movement tells us more about their recent work including the publication of their Status of Young Women in Scotland report.

It’s been a busy year so far for YWCA Scotland – The Young Women’s Movement. Our three centres are buzzing with activity, we’ve welcomed our first affiliates, initiated a blogging network for young women in Scotland and successfully launched our first two Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes.

We’ve also been travelling around Scotland – from Edinburgh to Livingston to Dingwall – for a series of #YWCAlive roadshows, sharing our Status of Young Women in Scotland report (SYWS) and consulting with individuals and organisations on ways to lead change. In our roadshows, we’ve been exploring people’s #GenderLightbulb moments – moments when they realised that their gender was affecting their life – and connecting these with SYWS.

Status of Young Women is the first report of its kind: original research into how gender affects the lives of young women in Scotland, in our own voices, gathered through a series of face-to-face interviews with over 60 participants. Most participants believed that there is ‘some way to go’ until gender equality is fully achieved in Scotland.

"It’s about valuing women to the same degree; not just saying we have to be the same as men."

Young women talked about ways in which gender had affected their lives since their school days – from the assumption that they would prefer and excel at certain courses, to street harassment on the way home from school, to the teacher’s ruling that "I was ‘too good’ at throwing to be with the girls but [was] discouraged from playing with the boys as I’d 'get hurt'."

In education and employment, young women spoke of the pressures and challenges which they, and others, had faced:

"In some of the male-dominated courses like engineering or farming it’s very obvious that women are not welcome. There are some courses with only one girl in a class of 20 or 30 students. We hear lots of stories of wolf whistles, sexual chat or being made to feel uncomfortable."

"I’m in my late twenties and I’m married. I only recently got this job and was conscious in job interviews that employers might just see me as a ticking time-bomb, a pregnancy waiting to happen."

It was evident also from many participants that gender still plays a large part in the role they are expected to adopt in the domestic sphere:

"It’s like the list of things that women have to do has got longer; study, work AND do all the domestic stuff."

The full report, structured around themes which came out of these discussions, explores the impact of gender on education, employment, politics, media and stereotypes, family and relationships, and safety.

Since its launch on the 2 October 2015, SYWS has reached hundreds of organisations and individuals, and received positive feedback from public and third sector organisations and politicians. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says that "it shines a light on the issues still facing young women in Scotland and where we must do more to make sure they can maximise their potential".

We're looking forward to reaching more young women across Scotland, from rural and urban areas alike, and hope that individuals, organisations and politicians will listen to our voices and use SYWS as a tool for change.

Download the Status of Young Women in Scotland report

If you would like to find out more contact Ceris by emailing