Non-profit organisation ‘Dress For Success’, a charity that empowers women to achieve economic independence, reached a significant milestone on Thursday -- providing its services to 10,000 Australian women in need.
Through its network of support the charity aims to help any woman in need -- no matter her age, background or circumstance, to get back into the workforce.
It provides professional work attire to secure employment, but more importantly also offers workshops, coaching and mentoring that will enable women to define their own future.
Ursula McGeown, CEO of Dress For Success Sydney (DFSS) said while re-building confidence and getting women into the workforce takes time, the change she sees in a woman’s face during the initial one hour styling session is instant.
“I’ve seen women come through the door who are really downtrodden. Their confidence has taken a beating as they’re getting rejection after rejection at job interviews. They may be single mothers who've never had an hour to themselves before -- afterwards they’ll leave with this huge smile on their face,” Ursula McGeown, CEO of Dress For Success Sydney told The Huffington Post Australia.
Fiona was the charity’s 10, 000th client, who moved to Sydney from Orange to study acting two years ago and approached Dress For Success Sydney after graduating from acting school, in hope of finding some work clothes for her new part-time job.
Clothes, employment and education aside, the charity belongs to a network of community organisations working on the frontline to respond to Australia’s family violence crisis.
“We see women who come to us with their kids in their hands and that’s it -- they’ve left a domestic violence situation and have nothing. We’ll give her a week or two weeks’ worth of clothes and help her be referred to a women’s refuge,” McGeown said.
Women reaching out to DFSS come from all walks of life but share a common experience in that they are seeking access to services that support them in achieving financial independence.
“One of our clients was a well-educated, professional woman but her life took a turn for the worst when her son died in her arms of an asthma attack. She lost her job, she split from her husband and moved out of the family home she’d worked towards,” McGeown said.
Recently Dress For Success developed a workshop specifically tailored to women over 50 where they can learn about money management, superannuation and the different challenges they may face when entering the workforce later in life.
“These women might be going through divorce and therefore need to find work. Their husband may have been the breadwinner and all of sudden they’re having to pay rent, get a job and many of them don’t have any superannuation as they’ve been the ones rearing the children,” McGeown said.
Megan Etheridge, founder and now patron of DFSS Sydney said when she started the charity in 2008 her ultimate goal was to help women in need while encouraging a conversation about discrimination.
“Seven years later, not only have we done that but we’ve created something truly meaningful, helping women achieve economic independence and stand on their own two feet,” Etheridge said in a statement.
Looking to the future, McGeown said this year the organisation aims to support over 2,000 women get back into employment.
"We know that women and mums spend the majority of their income on their families and we know the positive effects women have on the workforce. Ultimately it's an outstanding economic strategy to invest in these women and provide them with the type of tailored and careful support they need," McGeown said.