Dress For Success Helps Put Women Back To Work

Mar 22, 2013

Betty Harris graduates from a special jobs program that partners 'Dress for Success' Triangle with Lenovo.
Credit Leoneda Inge

A group of women looking for work participated in a special graduation ceremony this week in the Triangle.  They are clients in ‘Dress for Success.’ The non-profit provides women with interview suits and career-building tools to get them back into the world of work.  Businesses like Chinese computer maker Lenovo is a ‘Dress for Success’ partner.  They hosted this year’s ceremony.

The women strutted across the stage as their names were called.  Maybe it was because of the music.  Or maybe it was because of all the cheering from family and friends.  Or maybe it was the new suit. 

And in ‘Dress for Success’ style, after the women received their certificate, they were given a long-stemmed red rose and a briefcase.  Pat Nathan is the Founder of the ‘Dress for Success” affiliate in the Triangle with offices in Durham and Raleigh.

“I know that we have had tough times in our community.  I know that you have personally have had tough times.  But one thing we’ve learned about you is that each one of you is tougher.  So go out and flourish, you will get work.  Thank you," says Nathan.

‘Dress for Success’ is in 127 cities.  Nathan says her office is able to help find jobs for about 45 percent of their clients.  But tough times called for more personalized support and services.  When ‘Dress for Success’ inserted the Walmart Foundation’s ‘Going Places Network’ into the mix, their success rate jumped.

“The women that participate in this ‘Going Places Network,’ this extended job acquisition program, have a 70 perent success rate.  They don’t all find it in the first 10 weeks, but within the first year, they land a job,” says Nathan.

In 2012, ‘Dress for Success’ Triangle was recognized nationally for getting the largest percentage of women back to work through the ‘Going Places Network.’ The program is what has attracted big companies like Lenovo.

Nellie Scott is Director of Sales Support and Enablement at Lenovo.  She has gotten the chance to work with ‘Dress for Success’ clients and serves as a mentor.

“They’re so committed to number one, being productive in the community and number two, helping their families.  And they really, really do want to work. They may have just difficulty interpreting their skill-set into contemporary work requirements and that’s where our program comes in and helps them do that,” says Scott.

About 40 women have graduated from the Triangle ‘Going Places Network’ program so far this year.  Tia DeMaria of Apex lost her job in banking last summer.  She’s optimistic she’ll have work soon.

“I’ve had a lot of interviews, but I’m still looking,” says DeMaria. 

She heard about ‘Dress for Success’ while taking a class at Wake Tech.  DeMaria says she is grateful for the workshops on resume writing, interviewing and of course, learning how to dress.

“I tend to be more boxy and I like to hide how I look, and that is not the trend and it apparently dates me. So I am taking into account the things that I have learned, added the little skinny belt.  This would be something that one of my daughters in college would be doing, so I am trying to stay more current," says DeMaria.

And when the women land a job, ‘Dress for Success’ does not leave them hanging.  They get a week’s worth of clothes to help make them look successful, and confident while waiting for that first pay check.