When people take negatives and turn them into positives, people enjoy sharing those stories. When a negative like bullying is turned into a positive like The Girl Promise—a movement started by two Gig Harbor women that has led approximately 4,000 girls to pledge to honor other females—it’s a story you hope will be shouted from mountain tops!
Robin Saathoff and Diane Stefanowicz are close friends, moms and full-time employees (Robin teaches preschool, Diane is a dental hygienist) who have become the powerhouses behind this program they created to empower girls, teaching acceptance, respect and leadership.
The Girl Promise idea started from conversations they had after bullying impacted their lives, both on a personal level when they were coworkers and as Diane’s daughter dealt with it in high school. When Robin noticed some unhealthy patterns showing up in her classroom, with girls as young as 3 years old, the two of them decided it was time to make a difference.
That decision led them to Robin’s college friend, Dr. Mary Graham, a psychologist at the University of Seattle who helped create a curriculum for presentations they now give at area schools and other venues. The curriculum places importance on girls empowering themselves to stand strong and teaching methods to be aware and help stop bullying. “We typically try and not focus on the bullies being bad people in our presentations. We think they are amazing leaders but they are just misdirected with their leadership abilities,” Diane noted. “Think if they used all their power and leadership for goodness?”
The Girl Promise states: “I promise to love and respect other females regardless of our differences.” They teach that in a world of impossible standards, it’s better to keep conversations open and encourage girls to focus on building each other up instead of feeling the need for competition.
“We want girls to pump each other up and be supportive rather than being competitive or inclusive,” Robin said. Both women hope that their message will spread worldwide as girls of all ages learn to find strength in themselves, serving as The Girl Promise ambassadors who accept differences while celebrating each other’s accomplishments.
When asked what message they would share with any girl being bullied, Diane replied, “We would first of all remind her that her being bullied has absolutely nothing to do with her. We would educate her on the fact that bullies are just humans who are hurting inside and that they act out and say things because they want others to hurt as well. We would tell her to find compassion for those who are hurting and who are lost. We would tell her to hold her beautiful head up and be proud of who she is and to not react back. Be a girl who can look herself in the mirror and be proud of who she is through her actions and her words.”
After two years, they’ve seen progress as The Girl Promise has grown from an idea to a series of presentations and a clothing company they opened to help fund the curriculum and further promote their platform.
Diane and Robin decided to start the clothing line for the girls to have a takeaway as a visual reminder of their promise that could send out a positive message and provide opportunities for conversation. While the shirts, tanks and hoodies are boldly printed with “GIRL” or their hashtag, #GIRLPROMISE, in sizes from toddlers’ 2T to adults’ 4X, men are also encouraged to wear a GIRL shirt to show their support in empowering females of all ages. The clothing is available from Diane and Robin directly or online at GIRLbyRodiwear.com.
Future goals for The Girl Promise are to make the curriculum available for schools and programs around the country and expand the clothing line. Both women are considering that this could turn into full-time work for them.
When asked what has been the most pivotal moment so far, both women had the same answer: the moment at a recent meeting with the University of Washington marketing team, when UW marketing professor Steve Sack chose Robin and Diane to receive help pro bono with creating a marketing and strategy plan for their business.
For Robin and Diane, it confirmed that what they were doing was coming into fruition; getting this project off the ground has taken a big investment of time and personal funds, and they admit that sometimes they’d felt like giving up. But this incidence gave them the motivation to continue.
“We have always made it a priority to talk to anyone who will listen to us about our important message,” they said. “The meeting was a pivotal moment for us because it reminded us that all the hard work we have been putting in is finally paying off. These tiny seeds we plant by talking to people are so very important to building our business, but more importantly, they help to spread our important message that so needs to be heard. We will never give up.”
Here’s hoping they never do, for every girl’s sake.
For more information about The Girl Promise, Diane and Robin may be reached by email: email@example.com, or by calling 253.282.2797.