Created by Girl Scouts Heart of the South in 2014, the National Stand Beside Her Movement is a call to action to mentor, support and develop women and girls—to end competition and comparison and create more collaboration and support. Join the conversation this week by using the #StandBesideHer hashtag on social media.
Unfortunately, “mean girls” aren’t just fictional fodder for films. From the playground to the work place, women and girls too often find themselves pitted against one another. The constant competition—fueled by the media and our cultural norms—can seem inescapable. As women, we already face enough obstacles—we don’t need to add to the chorus of negativity other women are facing. Instead, we should be seeking solidarity.
Here are 10 things we can all do to support the young women and girls in our lives every single day. (Leave your own suggestions in the comments!)
#1: Give compliments of substance.
More often than not, the compliments we give and receive are based on physical features alone. From media outlets to various conversations, women are constantly being objectified by their outward appearances. Compliment a young woman for her achievements. Tell a girl that she’s got a bright future. And celebrate when others do well! Compliments based on merit send a stronger message and carry more meaning. Remember: Empowered women empower women!
#2: Invite a junior colleague for coffee.
Be a mentor to the next generation of professionals. Give positive feedback and opportunities for development. Offer support for those beginning careers because there needs to be more women at the table. Invite new hires to shadow senior employees on projects and in committees. Having female mentors is especially important to young women as they navigate the unique challenges both their professional and personal lives in pursuit of success.
#3: Invest your time in giving back to girls.
Support organizations that serve girls and women as a volunteer. From women’s shelters to organizations that mentor girls –like Girl Scouts!—you can change lives with just an hour of your time.
#4: …And donate to nonprofits that work on improving the lives of women and girls.
Build on donating your time and energy by giving the kind of financial support organizations need. You’ll be fueling the future of a movement—and your own good karma.
#5: Be a role champion for the girls and young women in your life.
Tell her she can accomplish her goals. Show her the sky is the limit and take it a step further by helping her get there. Support her in discovering her talents and encourage her passions. As girls develop their sense of self, decide who they are and set their sights on who they want to become, foster environments that support them—and be their biggest champions.
#6: Express gratitude.
In our fast-paced society, it can be easy to take gifts and actions for granted. Uplift those in your life who are helpful and kind by saying thank you! Studies have shown expressing gratitude can make you feel more optimistic, increase your self-esteem and generally make you feel happier. There’s a lot of negative and damaging stuff being passed down to our girls—challenge it with optimism and gratitude.
#7: Commit to a random act of kindness.
Being kind to other woman and girls is always priceless. Whether you give a girl a small gift or make certain to drop off a donation to a shelter, a random act of (feminist) kindness can truly brighten a day. If every act of kindness sends a ripple, the collective power of ours can spark a wave of girl power.
#8: Register to vote.
Not even 100 years ago, the 19th amendment was passed. Do your research. Become an informed voter for candidates that support the issues facing women and girls. You can even take it a step further: Call or meet with public officials and community leaders to educate them about important issues and encourage them to #standbesideher.
#9: Watch your words. Avoid negative terms.
Monitor your comments about yourself, the girls in your life and even famous or notable women. Lead by example and show women and girls how to build others up, not tear them down. Why is a girl bossy, but a boy is ambitious? Shouldn’t a girl throw like a girl? Avoid words and terms that stereotype girls and woman as less than men and boys—and advise others to do the same when you hear them falling into problematic patterns of speech.
#10: Send positive messages on social media.
With so much negativity in the world, use your platforms to spread positivity. With social media, the chance for engagement towards making change is endless. Too often, social media can lead us to conflate “likes” with value—or worse, become vehicles for harassment and abuse. Challenge those ideas with thoughtful comments and good vibes.