UK (University of Roehampton) €3 Million Research into Improving Development of Political Self-Confidence of Girls from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Begins

Brussels, Belgium – A €3 million multinational, European research project designed to support the development of political self-confidence of girls from less advantaged backgrounds has been launched at the ‘YOUNG IN: co-creating evidence-based solutions for the future’ Stakeholders forum.

The study, Gender Empowerment through Politics in Classrooms (G-EPIC), will establish a new international benchmark of best practice to improve gender1 equity in politics from the classroom onwards, encouraging more girls to become engaged in politics.

Image - €3 million research into improving development of political self-confidence of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds begins

The 3-year project has been launched following new research identifying an ongoing gender gap in political leadership, political ambition and political self-efficacy across Western democracies which is worsened in schools. Recent analysis2 from the University of Roehampton London shows that gender gaps in political confidence stem from the age of 11-16 when young people begin forming political attitudes, with schools reinforcing this gap through negative classroom discussions experienced by girls.

G-EPIC will undertake classroom observations and reanalysis of existing quantitative data to understand how inequalities in attitudes and dispositions towards political engagement are learnt. G-EPIC will then create experiments in schools and pilot design-based interventions co-developed with civil-society, teachers and students. These experiments and interventions will be rigorously evaluated in comparisons with control groups and lead to the development of the Gender Empowerment in Classroom intervention that will be disseminated and delivered in schools across Europe creating the possibility for real change and the reduction of gender inequalities in political leadership.

The study is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2022 Framework Programme and the UK component is funded by UKRI and is led by first-class European academics in political science, sociology, gender studies, youth studies, and educational sciences, including Professor Bryony Hoskins from the University of Roehampton.

Professor Bryony Hoskins, said, “Decades of research has consistently shown that women have less confidence in their abilities to influence the world of politics than men, which we know stems from an early age. By analysing how discussions in school classrooms are discouraging girls from engaging in politics, we can begin creating more inclusive classroom practices that will reduce the damaging gender gap on political confidence, which continues to have a fundamental influence on the world’s political landscape. I look forward to collaborating with my peers from across Europe as we strive to achieve our aim of reducing the gender politics gap that exists in the classroom and beyond.”

Professor Hoskins presented the policy brief at the YOUNG IN: co-creating evidence-based solutions for the future Stakeholders forum on 21 February 2023. You can view the policy brief here.

1 The use of ‘gender’ in the research conducted so far refers to a binary measure that distinguishes between girls and boys (Bittner and Goodyear-Grant 2017). These categories are understood as having social and cultural meaning imposed upon them (McDermott 2016). We use the concept of gender in this way to provide conceptual clarity but acknowledge that there are limitations to the way we use these terms and in the future research project we will also explore nonbinary measures.
2 Based on the research paper “Gender Differences in the Effect of an Open Classroom Climate at School on the Development of Political Self-Efficacy”, presented at the panel “Political learning” at the European Conference of Politics and Gender (ECPG), University of Ljubljana, 6-8 July 2022.