After celebrating 10 years of supporting women and gender-nonconforming persons, Dress For Success Ottawa National Capital Region (DFSOttawa) is headed into spring 2022 with unwavering commitment, fresh initiatives, and new programming.
“From the moment Dress for Success Ottawa was born in 2011, we have always looked for where there were holes in the support system for women and gender-nonconforming individuals seeking employment in the Ottawa Valley and Outaouais region and focused our efforts there while partnering with over 100 other agencies to offer our clients the services we don’t,” says Alison Sochasky, DFSOttawa’s Development and Programming Manager.
Those holes are quickly and expertly patched with carefully crafted initiatives. Sochasky shares a new one for 2022: “Thanks to pilot funding from the Ottawa Community Foundation this past year, we’ve been able to add specific services that focus directly on young professionals starting to enter the workforce with our First Impressions Workshops.” This month they’re hosting two of the 1.5-hour virtual workshops, “covering what makes the greatest impact to recruiters online, in applications, and during the first few seconds of any interview,” says Sochasky.
DFSOttawa offers fresh local events that are open to everyone. For example, their seasonal SupportHER Sales at 200 Catherine Street help fund programs and services. These sales are “a wonderful opportunity for the community to grow their professional wardrobes at accessible prices,” Sochasky says. The fast-approaching spring sale takes place April 1–3, with new-to-you items priced as low as $5.
The need for DFSOttawa’s services runs deep, especially in recent years: “Just like everyone else, COVID-19 changed everything about how we operated. At a time when women across Canada were experiencing job loss at a rate much higher than their male counterparts, we also lost our in-person fundraising events, which normally raised nearly a third of our entire operating budget. How do you grow your services and increase access when you’re also unsure of a large chunk of your funding? Fortunately, our supporters rallied to help as we identified the new needs and work-life realities created by the pandemic,” Sochasky says.
Instead of remaining static, the team adapted their offerings into a state-of-the-art, highly flexible hybrid model: “Our staff pivoted quickly. Within one week of the lockdowns, we were sending emails to our volunteers and clients with local resources and mental health guides (something that grew into our Helping Women Now Program). We researched and trained all of our volunteers on how to host virtual versions of our programs, like Mock Interviewing and Resume Reviews. Soon after, our in-person All Women Empowered Conference went virtual, which also allowed us to take it nationwide! And we started doing outreach calls to 4,000+ active clients, letting everyone know they weren’t alone and we were in this together,” says Sochasky.
Safety and accessibility for their clients was also top of mind for DFSOttawa: “Our Suiting Program also now offers a choice between virtual and in-person, so that if they want, clients can explore our boutique from the safety of their homes and select curbside pick-up of their outfits (something that has been especially valuable for single mothers who don’t have access to childcare).”
DFSOttawa is excellently suited for the coming year to empower people using their multitude of services on their paths to success. They call their clients the heroes of their own stories, but observing their work and team, it’s clear that they, too, are heroes.
Through their 12 professional development programs and services, Dress for Success Ottawa offers tools that empower local women and gender-nonconforming persons to overcome barriers to their careers and become independently financially secure. From clothing to career advice, their 100% free services suit clients of all ages from the inside out. If you are living paycheque to paycheque and want someone in your corner, you can self-refer on their website. Become a part of DFSOttawa’s support community by following them on Instagram or Facebook or by giving. To learn more, visit DFSOttawa online.