We are delighted to share the Red:GLOW report: Building Young Women’s Leadership at Work and as Citizens: Policy Recommendations.
At the beginning of Red:GLOW – the youth workers and organisations worked together to further develop our understanding of the challenges we were seeing young women face, and how we saw that our work was addressing them. The further we explored these intersectional challenges and reflected on our work with young women, the more complex we realised that the issues facing them were.
To download the report in English, Spanish, Italian, Latvia, Slovenian or Polish, please click on this link.
This report explores the challenges facing young women in Europe today and makes recommendations to improve the support available to them through youth work. Our recommendations are broad, taking into consideration the variance across Europe in gender inequality and how the different manifestations are affected by multiple disadvantages.
1. Post-COVID policies to address the pandemic’s economic impact, and impact on employment, must be looked at through a gendered lens that considers multiple disadvantages. They must take into consideration that women, minority communities and those facing economic challenges have been disproportionately affected by COVID, compounding the disadvantage that they already faced before the pandemic.
2. Youth policy and programming need to be conscious of how young women’s long-term thriving depends on seeing the challenges that they face as interlinked, rather than independent. They should better integrate skill development, citizenship rights and responsibilities and access to decent work and career progression. Both an understanding of leadership and opportunities for youth leadership should be embedded in programmes.
Inequity means that the contributions that women are making are not equally recognised or valued and their ability to influence change is limited. This is systemic, and the conversation needs to progress beyond arguments about the impact of maternity and women choosing to work in sectors that are less well financially compensated. Complementing this, the value of female-only programmes should be considered.
3. National Governments should look to improve young people’s preparation for the workplace, promoting all routes that lead into decent work, and ensuring that education equips young people with the skills – and ability to gain the soft skills – that will lead into decent work. The narrow focus on academic success needs to be reviewed.
4. Quality youth work that prepares young women to thrive should be invested in at European, national and local levels. The narrow focus on empowering marginalised young people needs to be examined if they perpetuate social exclusion and prevent them from developing social capital. Programmes that indirectly also provide opportunities for social integration should be promoted.
5. Low levels of citizenship, and lack of understanding of how different aspects of citizenship fit together and allow young people to both claim rights and create a more just society are concerning. In the face of poor examples of political leadership, elected officials, and the systems that put candidates forward for election, must be held to higher standards of accountability and transparency.
Without these changes, confidence in democracy is unlikely to grow amongst young people. Programmes that educate young people on systems of power and provide tools for advocacy through themes that engage them should be promoted, as well as opportunities for them to develop and lead action to improve their own communities facilitated.
6. Programmes to better educate and inform the adults who guide young women in their career choices should be developed to meet national needs. Parents, teachers and youth workers need to have access to up-to-date information on routes into employment, growing industries and in-demand skills so that their advice and support is relevant.
7. There should be national and EU-level conversations on how we recognise the value of typically ‘female’ work and skills. The keyworker roles that have been so valued during the pandemic, often poorly compensated and seen as ‘lesser’, often fall into this category, for example nurses, carers, and teachers.
Rather than accepting that these jobs, which attract many female workers, are poorly compensated, we should examine why we think it is acceptable to pay low salaries to skilled people doing essential work. In addition, the value of many women’s essential but unpaid and invisible work in caring for family members of all ages should be recognised.
8. Programmes that put young women into contact with professional women of different ages, backgrounds and industries should be enabled, whether these are schemes that facilitate professional women to volunteer with young women, exchanges of experiences, or mentoring programmes.
9. Training should be made available to both professional and voluntary youth workers so that they have the tools to best support the young women they work with, in integrated ways. Youth workers cannot develop knowledge and skills in the young people they do not have these capacities themselves.
As a new network, we aim to work together to take these recommendations forward at local, national and European level, and to continue to collaborate to understand the issues that young women face, and how youth work can more effectively address them.