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Non-Profit Group Suits Up Women for Jobs


Staffer at Dress for Success helps Marty Sanabria with a dress

Staffer at Dress for Success helps Marty Sanabria with a dress

In the past year, the U.S. has shed more than seven million jobs in the global economic downturn. The media network CBS surveyed 700 unemployed Americans. Among them, 69 percent said unemployment has caused an increase in stress. The figure rises to 80 percent when unemployment lasts longer than six months. The survey also found women more likely than men to report anxiety or depression as a result of unemployment.One organization that is helping women cope with the anxiety and get back into the workforce.

Marty Sanabria is suiting up for her new job. Sanabria, an accountant, was out of work for a year, a victim of the economic crisis.

But she came to Dress for Success, a non-profit group that helps women get back into the workforce by outfitting them with a business suit and a positive attitude. She was hired within three months. "I was very depressed. I felt I had no support. I felt as though I wasn't myself anymore, I felt I had lost everything," she said.

During that year, she met with recruiters, sent out resumes and went on interviews, but there were no offers. Then she saw a commercial for "Dress for Success," and decided to give it a try.

"For many of the women who walk through our doors, confidence is a huge issue, and I know, many of the women who I've worked with have said to me, 'you know Suzanne, no one has ever said to me, I believe in you,' " said Suzanne Elliott, a vice president at Dress for Success.

Elliott says 70 percent of the women helped by the group are single mothers. She says dressing appropriately for interviews helps applicants feel confident.

Volunteers at Dress for Success give clients an initial fitting. That may also include accessories like shoes, jewelry, handbags and even makeup. Clients meet one-on-one with the volunteer for instruction on job hunting. When a client receives a job offer, she returns for five additional outfits. "My confidence went from zero to a billion. And they helped me with my resume writing, with mock interviews, with just about any type of resource that you can think of that will help someone attain a job, and retain their job also," Sanabria said.

Sanabria is now able to pay her rent and monthly bills. She says she's grateful to the women who helped her, and is looking forward to giving back however she can.

Dress for Success has helped more than 500,000 women find jobs, and has branches in nine countries, from Mexico to Australia. "Around the world, our mission is the same - to help women become self sufficient, achieve economic independence. But how that happens in each culture is a little bit different," Elliott said.

What isn't different is the feeling of accomplishment that clients take away.

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