How Dress for Success Provides Economic Empowerment and Independence


The mission of Dress for Success Indianapolis is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a support network, professional clothing and development tools to help women thrive in the workplace and in the world. life.

“I was able to receive, and now I am able to give.” Char Dunlap knows the tension of wrestling. Now, she offers help and hope to those who are striving to achieve their own dreams of economic empowerment. “I have seven children,” she beams. “And if my life hadn’t been different, their life wouldn’t have been different. There is a ripple effect for the benefit of one person. Some of the people that I’m helping now… well, I was that person. ”

A total makeover. That’s what Dunlap discovered when she walked through the doors of Dress For Success (DFS) in Indianapolis. She was looking for clothes because she could not afford a maintenance costume; she ended up wearing something that looked a lot better on her.

The mission of Dress for Success Indianapolis is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a support network, professional clothing and development tools to help women thrive in the workplace and in the world. life. DFS aims to provide women with the support services they need to make life transitions that result in self-reliance and socio-economic advancement. Dress for Success Indianapolis is one of 150 Dress for Success subsidiaries in 30 countries around the world.

“Confidence,” she stresses, “I have become confident. I developed as a leader realizing that I could be one. the mentoring and learning that I received. ”And she’s not the only one.

“In 1999, I don’t think people could have really realized when DFS opened in a church basement that today we would be serving over 18,000 local women with interviews, work and career services, ”Julie Petr, executive director of DFS Indianapolis recalls. “That’s a lot of women! Some of our clients have been with us for years and years, and some of them have been with us for two decades. career services, then join the Professional Women’s Group, or the PWG, as we call it. ”

Services that paved the way for economic empowerment were in demand before the pandemic. Now the need is growing exponentially. “The pandemic has been difficult for all of us personally and professionally, especially women,” notes Indiana Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch. “And women of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19[female[feminine. A Berkings Institute survey finds that one in four women who became unemployed during the pandemic said the job loss was due to a lack of child care. Another survey confirmed that women’s jobs were almost twice as vulnerable during the pandemic as men’s jobs. ”

The Lieutenant Governor decided to step out of her comfort zone and put herself in the shoes of the women she was reading about. She stepped on the catwalk as a model for the annual DFS Indy fundraiser, Go out in style, with women DFS serves.

The unique evening features 12 women from the community as amateur models. Women represent diverse backgrounds, bodies and beliefs – what unites them is an indomitable spirit.

“I was going to have an interview about two days after joining DFS,” recalls Linda Rousseau, DFS client and model for 2021: “My morale was low. I had lost my job six months earlier. the outfit I was going to wear to my interview, the woman sitting across from me told me about the Professional Women’s Group (PWG).Yes, I will help others to believe in themselves‘. ”

PWG is a place where women go for more than career services. “The PWG is a fraternity,” says Petr, executive director of DFS Indy. “It’s a place where women celebrate their successes, they support each other, and they also support each other when times aren’t so good. DFS released a survey in 2020 that indicated that 90% of our clients were in pain and were affected by COVID-19. We had to be resourceful, creative and transitioned in order to be able to help women who needed these jobs. Our career services moved to virtual programs, and clothing moved to curbside collection and delivery. We rely on a village of volunteers. ”

Volunteers like Brandi Davis-Handy, Director of Public Relations for AES, and Karen Mangia, Vice President of Customer & Market Insights for Salesforce, who co-chaired the 2021 Stepping Out in Style Gala.

“Dress For Success is an organization that I have long supported because of its mission to help women achieve economic independence,” describes Davis-Handy. “I was truly honored to co-chair the leadership team during such a pivotal time in our community. Knowing how much this pandemic has impacted women made me want to raise as much money as possible. I was more than thrilled to see organizations and women from across our city coming forward to support these efforts. ”

“Caring is the new seam,” Mangia continues, “One of my favorite quotes is’Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge, let your learning lead to action. ‘ When I read about widespread job loss among women, I was forced to do more than learn. I had to act. To contribute. Together we elevate. ”

The one-time event in the evening raised nearly $ 400,000, and other measures of success are on the rise as well. In 2020, 84% of PWG members were employed at the end of the year, and 12% more were looking for work. “DFS helps women find the resources they need and earn whatever they say they want to earn,” says Michelle Jones. She is a DFS client turned PWG mentor and 2021 model. “We are creating a safe place for women to step into what they were meant, created and deserve to be.”

Dara Fletcher, another amateur model and customer success story, concludes confidently: “When you are at DFS, you are at home. You return as you are then leave differently.


This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, who is Vice President, Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce. Her work focuses on strategies for personal and professional success, and she works regularly with executives, managers and future leaders of companies of all sizes on a global scale. She launched two new books in 2020: Listen ! How to listen to customers and reduce noise and Working from home: making the new normal work for you – both of Wiley. She has been featured in Forbes and writes regularly for Thrive globally and ZDNet, and was named one of the top 20 thought leaders in the world by Thinkers 360. Committed to diversity and inclusion, she is a member of her team on racial equality and justice. business. She is a TEDx speaker and author of Succeed with less, a book that tells about his personal journey through a potentially fatal health crisis. His high impact speeches help organizations access the future of work through innovative ideas around the voice of the customer.


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