Writing the next chapter

Tuesday 4 March 2014

It feels like we are always hearing about how young women are outperforming boys at school, going to university in record numbers and moving into top careers. Young women are often thought to have never had it so good when it comes to education and careers.

At least that is one of the stories told about young women. But for many young women it is not a reality they recognise. Last week we met with a group of young women who spoke frankly about the day to day challenges they face. Their reality is struggling to make ends meet, moving in and out of part-time casual jobs, and finding no one willing to give them the skills, experience and support they need to achieve their ambitions.

The experiences of these young women are mirrored in two reports just published, which help to shatter the myth that young women are living the good life.

The Intergenerational Foundation showed the growing gap between young and older workers. Those aged 50-59 now earn 1.5 times more than 22-29 year olds and almost 2.5 times more than the youngest workers. Young people are spending almost half of their income on a small number of essentials like housing, utilities, food and transport – and the picture doesn’t look set to improve anytime soon.

Asda released the latest results of its income tracker which showed not only that employment prospects continue to be bad for young people, but that their spending power is likely to fall for the next five years. Things are already tough, and they are about to get tougher for young people.

But surely there is some good news for young women? What about the rise in female employment in December? Well, according to a report from the TUC most of that was due to women over 50 returning to work.  

The story is very different for younger women. Women aged 18-24 have consistently been more likely to be Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) than their male peers for more than a decade – and figures show they are likely to remain NEET for longer than men. The women we spoke to want to build their skills and are ambitious for their careers – but find no practical support on offer to help them achieve those goals.

Many young women cannot see a way forward. In our polling last year almost two thirds of those we asked feared being part of a generation who will never be able to work. The reports just out, showing things are getting tougher, can only add to those fears.

Young Women’s Trust wants to change the story of young women. We want to work with young women so they can play a part in writing the next chapter. We want it to be one that allows them to have their voices heard, fulfil their ambitions and replace fear with hope.

If you want to help us rewrite that story, please get in touch today.