Memorandum submitted by YWCA (E&S 19)
YWCA is the leading charity working with the most disadvantaged young women in England and Wales. We want a future where disadvantaged young women can overcome prejudice against them and take charge of their own lives. Our campaign, More Than One Rung, seeks to ensure that young women have the opportunities to meet the challenges of poverty, gender stereotyping and financial disincentives, to gain skills and training to get off the bottom rung of the careers ladder.
YWCA broadly welcomes the proposals in Part 1 of the Bill to extend the education leaving age to 18 as this offers many new opportunities to gain skills and learn through work. An increase in the variety of options and learning opportunities is likely to engage young women for whom formal education has not worked. However, education at present does not work for many disadvantaged young women and without significant changes to the system these young women will struggle and the situation will get worse.
Compulsory participation in formal education does not necessarily lead to learning. Non-formal education and youth work awards, accredited by QCA or appropriate body, should be recognised as valid forms of training for those most disengaged and disadvantaged (Clause 6)
Support from local education authorities to encourage participation of disengaged young people should include opportunities for non-formal learning and gender-specific group activities (Clause 39)
A full range of opportunities should be provided to meet the personalised learning needs of disadvantaged young women, flexible to respond to their personal circumstance. Guidance should clarify what is considered a 'reasonable excuse' not to participate in formal education and to ensure support, including youth work, to provide pathways to formal education beyond 18 years (Clause 39)
Asked why she finds it easier to concentrate and learn at YWCA Angela says: 'You feel more comfortable and can say what you are feeling. You can get on with your work but still talk to people. It's given me more confidence.'
YWCA recognises the importance of support and guidance referred to in Part 2 of the Bill for participation in education in training for disadvantaged young women. Young women are often channelled into gender stereotypical work which offers low pay and little chance of progression. We believe that action needs to be taken to overcome this at a young age. We especially welcome the move in Clause 66 to ensure that careers education is unbiased. Good quality careers advice helps young people stay in education and choose work that will help them out of poverty.
However, we believe the Bill should go further and specify that careers advice and guidance should actively challenge gender stereotyping (Clause 66)
YWCA conducted research into the careers advice and guidance received by disadvantaged young women. We commissioned a literature review from the University of Derby Centre for Guidance Studies to examine gender, ethnicity and disadvantage. The Development Focus Trust and SOLAR, from the University of the
West of England asked young people and employers from Wolverhampton what are the barriers to getting work. We also conducted desk research about work experience.
Research found that views about what men and women do are set at a very early age. A survey of primary school children reveals that 95 per cent of boys think that car repairs should only be done by men. And 85 per cent of girls think that washing and mending clothes should only be done by women.
These gender stereotypes continue as we grow up. Young women take on these ideas which then influence the decisions they make about what courses, training and work they should do. Gender stereotypes also influence teachers and careers advisors, so girls are often guided towards typically 'female jobs', despite the fact they are lower paid and have fewer progression prospects.
Most girls are unaware of the extent to which their choice of career could affect their earning potential. They are unaware that, on average, women still earn less than men. So far, economic education in schools does not teach girls about
the financial implications of their career choices, occupational segregation or the gender pay gap.
The most disadvantaged young people are the most at risk of opting out of education and remaining unskilled throughout their lives. Our own research found that the most disadvantaged young women do not know what work to choose and often don't know where to go for support.
Young people told us that careers advice is not useful unless you already know what you want to do. They wanted more help with talking through options. Young women felt careers advisors didn't understand them.
YWCA's experience, and research in Scotland, shows that good quality careers advice and guidance, combined with the right support, helps young people find a future to work towards, make career choices and stay engaged in education or training. This reduces the number of so-called NEET young people, that is, they are not in education, employment or training.
Young women told us that self-esteem and confidence were crucial as to whether they succeeded in careers and work or not. Many girls were dealing with emotional and psychological barriers as well as deciding about their future. These must be dealt with alongside basic careers advice and guidance as they inhibit a woman's ability to enter the labour market.
When it came to advice and guidance a lot of young people felt they were not listened to and that they got pushed in directions they didn't want to go. They were rarely asked about their dreams but instead often felt pushed towards the
courses that were readily available.
Many girls mentioned a particular worker (a teacher, youth worker or support worker for example) that had made a positive difference to them. But equally many mentioned someone who had had a negative effect. Those with a clear vision of the future had often been inspired by a role model. Young women want to be treated with respect; they want someone friendly and caring who listens to what
In our experience young mums in particular miss out because their education may be disrupted and they may not be in school when careers advice is available. Few services are tailored to meet their specific needs and help them combine work education and training with childcare and flexible work. They also find that programmes do not take enough account of the range of individual young women's
situations and goals.
Research also showed that work experience placements were heavily influenced by gender stereotypes. The EOC study of schools found only 29 young women expressed an interest in childcare placements but 43 were actually offered placements in childcare and took them up. It was different for boys as only 2 undertook childcare placements.
More than twice as many boys undertook placements in semi- or unskilled manual labour as those who sought this for their career. Only one girl did such a placement.
Semi- or unskilled manual labour requires the same entry level skills as childcare but in the long-term offers better wages.
From our research and first-hand experience, YWCA knows how important getting careers advice right for disadvantaged young women is. We believe that this is the time for action to be taken
"Everyone said hair and beauty but I didn't want to do that. At first I was going to do it and then I thought nay I'm not doing what all the other girls are doing. I wanted to do what the lads do, not what the girls do" Jo
"I dreamt of becoming a motor mechanic but I was given work experience in a Harvester restaurant as a waitress. I don't know whether I ever said what I really wanted to do but no-one ever asked" Carly
 Women and Work Commission (2006) Shaping a fairer future: www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk/publications/wwc_shaping_fairer_future06.pdf
 Careers Scotland delivered Enhance Resource Pilots with NEET young people in schools in Scotland. In the first pilot, NEET figures reduced from 31% to 6% over two years. Pilots are now being rolled out in 7 local authority areas as part of the Scottish government's More Choices, More Chances strategy www.careers-scotland.org.uk/AboutCS/Initiatives/EnhancedResourcePP.asp
 Harden, A. Brunton, F. Fletcher, A. Burchett, H. & Backhans, M (2006) Young People, Pregnancy and Social Exclusion: a Systematic Synthesis of Research Evidence to Identify Effective, Appropriate and Promising Approaches for Prevention and Support: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, London
 Francis, B. Osgood, J. Dalgety, J and Archer, L (2005) Gender equality in work experience placements for young people, London Metropolitan University and EOC, Manchester