Dressing for Success: Empowering Women on Their Career Paths

As a female recruiter and lawyer who works with attorneys to tee them up for success in their careers, and as someone who’s enjoyed the support and backing of mentors and coaches on my own professional path, I understand the significant role that having a supportive network can play. At Major, Lindsey & Africa, we strive to leverage our collective network—that of more than 180 recruiters worldwide—to help our clients and candidates make connections that will advance their careers. While many of those connections lead to specific job opportunities, some are more focused on setting candidates up for career success through coaching, mentorship and other opportunities.

Meet Dress for Success

Dress for Success (DFS) is a global nonprofit that empowers women to achieve economic independence. DFS specifically works with women who are at transitional moments in their lives. These women are referred by local nonprofit and government agencies to the organization once they’ve secured a job interview. The group’s name comes from the foundational unique service they offer—to provide each client with professional attire for their upcoming interview—but as DFS notes, “We are about much more than simply a new outfit.” In addition to dressing their clients on the verge of employment, they provide extensive programming, from career counseling to financial planning courses, and start building connections for these women to serve as the basis of their professional network.

I can attest to DFS offering more than just a sharp-looking suit to women in need. I began volunteering with the organization while working as a lawyer in San Francisco. DFS’s mission resonated with me, and I’d long heard great things about the work they were doing across the country. But I was not prepared for the transformation I would witness during the 30-minute styling sessions I held with women on the eve of a job interview. The change in demeanor and outlook with each client I met was palpable. Many walked in to DFS’s office, or “boutique,” quiet and sheepish, only to leave with a new professional look, shoulders back and exuding confidence.

Giving Back Together

Given my prior experience with DFS, I was thrilled when I joined Major, Lindsey & Africa last year and learned that my new employer had similarly recognized the good work being done by the organization. Major, Lindsey & Africa began collaborating with Dress for Success in 2016 in connection with our annual Women’s General Counsel High Tea. We thought this event, where female leaders in the legal industry gather to network and toast esteemed colleagues, would be an ideal place to also showcase the work of an organization like DFS. In the words of DFS’s president Joi Gordon, “Today, more than ever, women need to reach down and lift other women up. Women helping and appreciating each other—that is what makes us powerful.”

Just this month, Wendy Wilkins, director of Dress for Success Worldwide Central, joined Major, Lindsey & Africa for our 2018 Annual High Tea co-hosted with Dentons. “It’s important for women to support one another and keep the door open for the women coming behind them. It was a woman who opened the door for me!” At the event, leading legal industry leaders donated gently used professional attire for DFS’s clients. The theme of women supporting women was indeed palpable throughout the afternoon, with trailblazers and champions Mary Ann Hynes (senior counsel at Dentons and the first female general counsel of a Fortune 500 company), Kara Baysinger (co-author of Courageous Counsel), and Miriam Frank (MLA partner and head of our Talent Management Consulting team) delivering inspiring remarks.

If you have had the benefit of a support network, I recommend paying it forward and helping others find their support. Through organizations like Dress for Success, opportunities can become a reality for so many that may not have known where to look before. I look forward to continuing my partnership with DFS and also finding new ways to mentor and encourage others in their career. 

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Casey Gordon is a Director in our Midwest In-House Practice Group. She uses her knowledge of the legal industry and in-house experience to place attorneys at all levels within public and private, non-profit and academic legal departments throughout the Midwest.

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