When the Covid-19 pandemic brought the city to a standstill last year, some 60 per cent of low-wage jobs in Quebec were held by women. Between February 2020 and March 2021, more than 120,000 women lost their jobs, accounting for 69 per cent of job losses across the province. The pandemic was pushing more women deeper into poverty. Now, as the city begins to recover, a Montreal organization is trying to help women looking for a fresh start.
Dress for Success is a global non-profit organization that has been empowering women by providing them with a network of support since its inception in 1997. Sophie Katz-Milo, executive director of the Montreal affiliate operational since 2014, says she has seen first-hand how the lives of women have been positively impacted by the various initiatives.
The organization caters to a diverse group of women from low-income or marginalized communities (regardless of age, gender identity or ethnicity) by providing them with the basic essentials to kick-start their own success stories. And for every success story, simply looking the part can make all the difference. This is why Katz-Milo says the Dress for Success program provides such an important service. Each woman works with a volunteer stylist during a 90-minute boutique appointment. She is then given two professional outfits for an upcoming job interview. Upon securing a position, she is provided with three additional outfits to build out her professional wardrobe. Katz-Milo says many people often take for granted the ability to get dressed everyday, but that providing women with clothes is a simple and instant way of restoring confidence and dignity.
In addition to helping women get suited up, Dress for Success Montreal also provides support throughout the job search process, from interview coaching, mentorship services, skill building and employment- retention advice. Through the Purses with Purpose initiative, clients also receive a purse with necessities such as feminine hygiene products, hand sanitizer or coffee gift cards. Katz-Milo says it is a transformative and potentially life-altering process and all about empowering women.
Currently operating through referral only via a number of partners and agencies across the city, Katz-Milo says a self-referral process is being considered and could be implemented in the future. The organization is funded by donations and supported by volunteers. On October 19, the organization will launch its annual giving campaign culminating in a virtual Give for Success fundraiser with a goal of raising $25,000. Raffle tickets will also be available at the cost of $20.
For individuals wanting to support Dress for Success Montreal initiatives, gently used clothing items can be dropped off every first Saturday of the month at its boutique located at 3945 St. Denis St. Donations can also be made online by clicking here.
For more information, visit montreal.dressforsuccess.org.