Local organization continues to help women "Dress for Success" during pandemic

May 26 2020, 11:34 pm

With unemployment rates in BC dropping significantly during the pandemic, one organization is ensuring vulnerable women are getting the help they need to enter and thrive in the workforce. 

Dress for Success provides networking support, professional attire, and career development programs for women in need.

Founded in 1997 in New York City, the not-for-profit global initiative has helped over a million women succeed in the workplace to date. The charity came to Vancouver in 1999 as the first international affiliate.

During the pandemic, the organization’s work is needed more than ever to assist women looking to enter the professional job market.

According to BC’s latest Labour Force Statistics report, women had 84,600 fewer jobs available to them in April, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.9% from 6.6% earlier in March. 

The organization is taking additional measures to ensure it can offer optimal services even though its doors closed to the public on March 13. 

“We felt that it was really important to continue providing support and help women and our clients combat isolation, and get them connected to community programs for additional social support,” said Dress for Success (Vancouver) Executive Director Amy Robichaud in an interview with Daily Hive.

“We’ve launched a new program called Helping Women Now to provide assistance during the pandemic by showing women who are without work or struggling to find work, how to access government or other emergency supports like the food bank or shelters.” 

While suiting and dressing services are closed right now, Dress for Success is focusing on how to serve its client base virtually. 

“We have one-on-one online/telephone career support services and workshops, where women can speak to trained volunteers about their resumes and cover letters, or interview preparation and job finding guidance,” said Robichaud.

Though they saw a decrease in referrals from government agencies like Work BC, they have seen an increase in women reaching out directly. These women were either clients from the past who needed help again or women who heard about how the organization could point them in the right direction.

Dress for Success is hoping to reopen over the summer to provide a modified and safe dressing service for women going into the workforce. However, this doesn’t come without some challenges.

“We’re having difficulty accessing PPE equipment that will be needed, and we have to consider how to physically change our office to allow for physical distancing with our staff and volunteers,” said Robichaud.

“Our revenues and donations have significantly reduced over this period, and so it is a challenge to renovate and focus on getting equipment necessary for thousands of volunteers and clients.”

With a “do more with substantially less” attitude, they have also started an online fundraiser to assist women across the Lower Mainland.

Shreya ShahShreya Shah

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