Starting a new life in Toronto withholds a wide range of challenges. Some of them, like getting a job, are crucial. From the job interview to the maintenance of the position they achieve, women often face insecurities and obstacles on how to fit in the labour market scenario of a new country. To ease their journey, organizations and projects such as Dress For Success provide the tools and guidance they need. Milenio Stadium spoke to Kait Green, executive director of this project, to better understand how the way we dress is relevant when it comes to find a job and feel confident to keep it going.
Milénio Stadium: What is Dress For Success’ mission?
Kait Green: Dress for success is an international non-profit organization that helped more than a million women worldwide with self-proficiency. It started its operation in 1997, in New York city. Our mission is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive in work and in life. And we are now celebrating our 10th anniversary in the city of Toronto.
MS: What women usually need help from organizations like this?
KG: We serve a variety of women. Usually when people think of charity organizations, they think of helping the poor, but the truth is we help women with all the different levels of education. And more than 80% of our clients have a post-secondary education or higher. Some of these are highly educated women that are just challenged to find work. Also, a big part of them are newcomers to Canada that have lived here for less than five years. The majority is usually between age 20 to 35. There are some of them living in poverty or that are single moms, having one to three kids.
MS: How do they usually reach out to you?
KG: We work with several referral agencies in the GTA. And they can be different employment centers, different local shelters… They are the ones that actually work with the women, and once they are ready to start going out there, putting a resumé out there and looking for jobs, then these organizations refer them to us.
MS: Why is it important that women present themselves in a way they feel comfortable and that they look professional?
KG: For us that are in Toronto, we are really focused on sealing confidence. What is unique to us is that we run three types of programming. The one that people might be more familiar one is our suiting program. We suit women for job interviews and new jobs, so they get a full wardrobe to go out. We have a one on one consultation, with our stylist. They get dresses, blazers, shoes, accessories, handbags, briefcases… and that is one less thing that these women have to think about when they go to their job interview. And once they get the job, they will have a second consultation they get a full wardrobe to start their new job. So, they don’t have to spend that first paycheck on attire for work. They can put it towards their kids and food on the table. We also provide further career development. We work with some partners that host workshops to help them know for example how to build your LinkedIn profile or how to eat fresh food on a budget, financial management. So, there is quite an array with the pre-employment. We also provide support for working women, with an entire work network that helps women along their career path. And we host sessions for continuous learning.
MS: What are some of the most important tips you usually give to women? Are there some details that make the difference?
KG: Yes, there are a couple of different things, but our stylist really focuses on making sure that you’re dressing appropriately for the job you are looking for. So, let’s say that someone is going to a job in the banking industry. We have a different approach to their fashion with one of our stylists. We really try to help the women pick out and feel confident, because that is what it translates when you go to that job interview. If you feel confident when walking through that door, you will feel confident when answering to those questions.
MS: How can we contribute to help the organization?
KG: There’s several different ways to get involved with our organization. We have a lot of volunteers, so we are able to execute all of our programming. We have around 300 volunteers that regularly work with us, but we are always looking for additional support for our boutique, for new volunteers, and also for our pre-employment programs as well. You can certainly become a financial donor, and we have an event coming up this year, that is our annual gala. You can buy tickets. Or you can always donate some of your clothes. That piece that you bought and is just sitting in your closet with the price tag, that can be useful for a woman that is looking for employment.
MS: How can we send the clothes to you?
KG: We collect clothing regularly, every two weeks, on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month. And you can donate them here on your boutique. And if you are interested, we are more than happy to show you around when you’re coming and dropping your clothing off too. Also, all the details and more information are on our website: toronto.dressforsuccess.org.