In recent years, girls and young women are even forming breakaway girl-only gangs.
“Increasingly, girls have witnessed the status and power given to men in their gangs and decided they could run their own,” Batmanghelidjh says.
It is a view backed by experts.
“Girls form their own gangs to be in charge, to create their own identity,” says Dr Funke Baffour, a clinical psychologist.
In what can only be described as the dark side of female empowerment, Dr Baffour compares women’s thirst for ‘making it’ on the streets to women’s desire to climb their way up the career ladder in a corporate boardroom.
“It’s the same reason why women want to become a CEO of a company. It’s that sense of achievement. Running a girl gang can give them a sense of pride.
“In a mixed gang, women can still feel subordinate to men, even if they have worked their way up. She may also be acting like a man to get ahead – she’s not always being herself in a mixed gang. In many ways this is similar to the barriers women face in the corporate workplace.”
In the business world, battles of equality between men and women still centre around the lack of women running Britain’s boardrooms.
In the invisible, unexplored world of gang culture in Britain, it seems the power struggle between men and women also exists, only it manifests itself in terms of violence and crime.
Take this account from an 18 year-old woman interviewed for the Bedfordshire university report:
The rape and stuff would happen in different rooms but I’m still in the house. I know what’s happening but at the time I will admit nothing like that ever come through my head. I dunno why, it was like I saw myself as a boy, one of them, I dunno why
Batmanghelidjh, who has been working with vulnerable children for over 30 years, says “girls are increasingly mimicking the strength of boys”. This includes carrying firearms, knives and taking part in attacks, as well as looking like boys.
As this 18 year-old woman, interviewed by researchers from the University of Bedfordshire, explains:
The way I dress and the way I make myself look has made a lot of things stop happening because I intend to make myself look like a boy, I intend to make sure boys don’t look at me cos c’mon, if a girl is walking down the street and she looks like a boy, she’s got a hood up and everything, tracksuit bottoms, what boy is gonna wanna be seen with a girl like that, c’mon.
Looking back to the London riots, Batmanghelidjh says that the only difference in the way men and women behaved was down to physical strength.
“The boys broke the shop screen with their legs and bodies. They’ve got the physicality to be able to do that. When they’d done that, the girls stepped in. There’s a physical difference between boys and girls but there’s no intentional difference. Girls are just as capable of immense brutality.”
The images we saw of kicking in shop windows, or tearing down security screens, tended to show male rioters purely because they’re the ones who had the physical strength to cause the damage. But the women weren’t far behind them.
When it comes to intention, mentally, girls are just as capable of violence or extreme violent acts as boys, Batmanghelidjh says.