My #StandBesideHer Story

One of my favorite times of the day is the drive to school with my girls. In a world of constant hustle and bustle, I love the uninterrupted conversation the commute provides with my two daughters.

On one particular day, the conversation centered around an upcoming seventh-grade student government election. In line with the Girl Scout G.I.R.L. categories (Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader), I believe my eldest to be a risk-taker. She is confident putting herself out there for new opportunities and in the face of defeat, and she is resilient. With my own interests of developing leadership in myself and others, I was excited she had taken an interest in student government. She had worked hard developing her platform, creating campaign materials and speaking with her peers. Seeing this commitment made this parent very proud.

With a natural interest, I inquired how she thought the election would go. My daughter’s expression changed to disappointment. “I won’t get it.”

“Hmmm,” I thought, “What about Sarah?”—another very active and bright girl in her grade. “No, she won’t get it either,” replied my daughter. Shocked, because I believed both girls to be great candidates, I exasperatedly asked, “Well, who do you think will win then?”

My daughter mentioned a boy in her classroom who I hadn’t heard her bring up before. “He will win,” she said, “because none of the girls will vote for each other.”

My entire life has been devoted to supporting women and children. I believe they are the future. As CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of the South, this has become not only a personal but professional goal. Though everything I do is towards building girls of courage, confidence and character, nothing is more eye-opening than hearing from your own children the truths of society that you are working to combat. Since that day, I’ve heard that response echo in my head. It has become the driving focus for my already present dream of empowering girls and women. I came into work after that interaction determined to do something about this problem.

Emmanuelle Bourgue / Creative Commons

As I began telling the story, I realized so many women and girls have been affected by comparison and competition. We knew we were onto something. Out of a normal mother-daughter conversation, the Stand Beside Her Movement was developed.

We’ve all been affected by the constant comparison and competition. The cattiness between girls and the lack of support is something I witnessed with my daughter’s seventh-grade classmates, but with some reflection I knew it really began even earlier. It doesn’t end in middle school, but continues into adulthood. In the media, television shows and advertisements display women in conflict and turn it into entertainment. In the workplace, women find themselves being pit against each other instead of opening the door for more women at the table. Moms shame other moms. Daughters hear and bear witness to the competition—and the cycle of negativity continues.

At 9 years old, a girl’s self-esteem peaks—and then takes a nose dive. 39 percent of girls have been put down or discouraged when trying to lead. As a concerned citizen and mother raising two girls, I dream of a world where women Stand Beside Her—a world where girls are supported to fulfill their dreams and reach their full potential. It’s time to stop the cycle of constant comparison and competition.

The facts affecting women are already unbearable. Only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOS are women and the year it is estimated that women will reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country is 2085. We can’t fill that gap alone. The National Stand Beside Her Movement is a call to action to mentor, support and develop women and girls; to end comparison and competition and create more collaboration and support for one another. I want to encourage you to join the conversation.

Become a part of the movement—for the next generation of women leaders and the girl you once were. Take a stand with us—now, during Stand Beside Her Week, and every week.

Melanie Schild became CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of the South in 2014. Since coming to Girl Scouts, she has started numerous leadership programs, including the Kaleidoscope National Leadership Conference, the She Leads Leadership program and the We Lead Institute. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of Kappa Delta Sorority and Kappa Delta Foundation, Inc., President of the Association of Fraternity Executives, President of National Panhellenic Conference Executives and a national trainer for the Association of Junior Leagues International.

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