Empowering women for the future 

When it comes to building a better future in a post-pandemic world, Heather Howe said some people don’t know where to start.

“We’ve been locked up for so long. People have been unemployed for so long … Sometimes you need the help [and] sometimes you need a little push,” said Howe, Dress for Success Pittsburgh mobile services coordinator.

Dress for Success Pittsburgh provides that push for women in need of clothing, confidence and connections. Despite COVID-19 immobilizing their mobile services last year, they are now back in action helping women across Southwestern Pennsylvania. This past week, they hosted a mobile event at Waynesburg University.

According to their website pittsburgh.dressforsuccess.org, “The mission of Dress for Success Pittsburgh is to empower women who are entering and returning to the workforce across Southwestern, PA.”

“It is to empower women for any stage of their life and to get them ready for success no matter what,” Howe said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be for a job … because sometimes success is just having a pair of pants to go to the grocery store because you have nothing.”

Sarah Bell, Waynesburg University career development specialist, said Dress for Success’ mission and Waynesburg’s history is one of the reasons she decided to connect with Dress for Success Pittsburgh to host a mobile event on campus.

“As one of the first institutions to educate women alongside men, I think it fits really well with our mission and what we do here,” Bell said. “I also think from a career development standpoint a lot of people don’t think of clothing as a basic need … but it is. And I think any opportunity to provide our students with free resources or equitable access to resources is really important.”

Students who attended the event received career readiness services and a business professional outfit which included their choice of clothing, shoes, accessories and personal care items. 

Rachel Pellegrino - The Yellow Jacket

“In everybody’s bag … they got a packet which has tips on interviewing virtually, we’ve got connections to our virtual connections resource center … and just a little information on Dress for Success,” Howe said.

Even though the event was marketed as a free clothing and professional development initiative, Bell said the event provided more than that.

“It’s not just free clothing and not just career development at Waynesburg but kind of a bigger picture looking at feminism, equal pay, intersections of identity and I think that’s all important for students to be mindful of,” Bell said.

Aside from looking at the bigger picture, Howe said confidence and empowerment were also a big part of the event.

“They’re great for everyone. It’s a confidence boost,” Howe said. “I think it’s just empowering. You get your first suit. You’re getting ready to go out into the world.”

Rachel Pellegrino - The Yellow Jacket

According to Bell, the turnout was better than expected. Students were encouraged to pre-register for the event, but the event also welcomed walk-ins. Over 51 students were in attendance.

“I’m very pleasantly surprised and happy that a lot of students are taking advantage of the opportunity,” Bell said.

Howe was also pleased with the event. 

“This has been a great event,” Howe said. “It’s nice to be at a college campus where you guys are looking for the future.”

Even though Dress for Success specially targeted female students, Waynesburg will be providing more career development opportunities in the near future for the entire campus. 

“There are a few career fairs coming up, and we will be hosting other workshops and resource events as well,” Bell said. 

The next career development event will be the Criminal Justice Job and Internship Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 6, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Marisa Fieldhouse.