Doubts about self-image hold 70% of women back, survey finds

73 % of young women see themselves in leadership roles in the future

‘It has taken me years to realise my physical appearance should not and does not affect my ability to do what I want to do,’ says 22-year-old Dubliner Sophie Kane. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

‘It has taken me years to realise my physical appearance should not and does not affect my ability to do what I want to do,’ says 22-year-old Dubliner Sophie Kane. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Young women want to be leaders, but doubts about self-image hold them back, a new survey has found.

“It has taken me years to realise my physical appearance should not and does not affect my ability to do what I want to do,” says 22-year-old Dubliner Sophie Kane.

Ms Kane is fortunate. A new survey has found that while 73 per cent of young women see themselves in leadership roles in the future, 70 per cent of them say the way they look may prevent them from becoming a leader in the first place.

Ms Kane said the way she looks hasn’t stopped her from doing anything, but says she has altered her appearance “particularly as a teenager in order to fit in or avoid criticism.”

For Sarah Clarkin, the National Women’s Council (NWCI) communications officer, the figures in the Looking Glass survey expose a conundrum, leaving a need for role models to help others to progress.

More than three-quarters believe that there are not enough of them. For many young women, Mum rates highly. Dads did too. Former President Mary Robinson appears on the list, too.

Data

The problems with self-image affect every aspect of life: “Just small things in everyday life, like not wanting to be in a photograph, or not wanting to go to a party because I don’t like how I look,” said 22-year-old Kaylyn Wold.

School-days were worst: “Being self-conscious about my weight stopped me from being more social in general. However, as I’ve got older and become more confident in myself, I’ve overcome that and try not to let it affect me.”

More than four-in-ten women admit to suffering from low self-esteem, twice the percentage of men, while 36 per cent of women said that their personal appearance makes them nervous when speaking in front of a group.

This jumped to 62 per cent among 16 to 24 year-old women. Negative feelings about how they look prevent one in five young women from applying for a job, the survey found.

Worryingly, 8 per cent of young women reported that they have been discouraged from going to the doctor because of their personal appearance. This figure was 5 per cent for women overall.

Some 20 per cent of young women said they have been are put off applying for a job because of their personal appearance. This figure is 10 per cent for women overall.

Social media is having a particular affect on young women, Ms Clarkin said: “ (A) constant bombardment with images of perfect female bodies has a lot to do with this.

“For so many women these bodies are unattainable. You’re shown images of these perfect curves and if you are a thin, 14 year-old girl, you are going to feel terrible about yourself for not having them”

“It’s on your phone and your phone is in your hand. For so many women these bodies are unattainable. You’re shown images of these perfect curves and if you are a thin, 14 year-old girl, you are going to feel terrible about yourself,” she said.