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North Hills Monthly

Dress for Success Pittsburgh Helps Prepare Women for the Workforce

Apr 30, 2016 12:05PM ● By Erica Cebzanov

“Every time a woman walks in here, we try our best to get her self-esteem to go up and to help develop her confidence; that confidence drives women to succeed,” explained Executive Director Mónica Méndez. “Positive perspectives of ourselves are super important in being able to get to the next level.” 

A client named Kim, providing a testimonial for the organization’s
In Her Own Words campaign, agreed.
“I feel so much more confident…with
a professional appearance, others will see me as a professional,” she said. 

Women interested in utilizing DFS Pittsburgh’s services apply through one of the nonprofit’s 250 partner referral agencies, such as job training programs, and shelters and rehabilitation centers, throughout Allegheny, Greene, Fayette and Washington counties. 

“We have women from all backgrounds coming in. The majority of the women come from disadvantaged communities and are seeking a hand up, not a hand out; they are ready to get jobs,” said Méndez, who added that DFS Pittsburgh has helped more than 20,000 women in the past 10 years. Clients have included young adults entering the workforce, older adults re-entering the job market, veterans and the previously incarcerated, among others. 

The Department of Human Services’ PA WorkWear program has partnered with DFS Pittsburgh to serve women receiving government assistance. “In order to start a job, you need the right clothing, but you can’t get the right clothing without money,” said Mendez. “Well, you can’t get money without a job. It’s a vicious Catch-22 cycle.

“What we were hired to do is to provide free [medical] scrubs, steel-toed shoes for construction jobs, chef’s outfits and server outfits—whatever it is they need,” she continued. After securing employment, PA WorkWear clients may return for additional career clothing.

In addition to outfitting clients, DFS Pittsburgh offers career development workshops focusing on cover letter and resume preparation, computer skills, financial literacy, conflict management and personal branding. DFS Worldwide instituted the Professional Women’s Group (PWG), a program designed to improve employment retention and help women ascend the corporate ladder. The local monthly events consist of presentations and networking. 

“Dress for Success Worldwide has done research about how career development helps people retain their jobs, because they learn to talk through and manage problems. Sometimes, you just don’t have access to that kind of learning,” said Méndez. DFS will provide meals and child care during workshops and PWG meetings. Moreover, the group launched a partnership with Duquesne University’s professional coaching program, in which students nearing graduation deliver one-on-one career support to DFS clients. 

There are many ways to help DFS Pittsburgh. The workforce development agency accepts new or gently used work attire and accessories, as well as new makeup and toiletry donations at its office bordering Oakland and Shadyside. People may leave small donations during normal business hours, but those with large donations need to schedule pickup or drop-off times. Furthermore, Zoom Dry Cleaning will contribute cleaning services for donations left at its Squirrel Hill location, and patrons will receive 10 percent off of their personal orders. 

DFS Pittsburgh also helps groups plan clothing and toiletry donation drives and could use volunteers in career training, client consulting, donation pickups, events, inventory and operations. Another way to help is by visiting DFS Pittsburgh during its next Fill-A-Bag shopping event, which will be held June 1-3. For a $20 donation, each patron can stuff and take home a bag filled with professional suits and separates. Individuals can also register to join DFS Pittsburgh’s team for the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community on May 14.

For more information, visit