Woman On Top

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Nancy Lublin (PWG)

Nancy Lublin

Nancy Lublin
Founder: Dress For Success

Nearly all recent graduates and first time job-seekers are forced to confront the Catch-22 of business attire: without a job, it becomes difficult to buy a suit, but without a suit, one cannot hope to land a well-paying job. Enter New York-based Dress for Success, an international organization that offers free business suits to women interviewing for professional jobs. Dress for Success gives women the materials they need to take their first steps in the business world, and even ensures that those women continue to walk the path to success. In connecting motivated women through its Professional Women's Group (PWG), Dress for Success encourages future women on top.

Nancy Lublin founded Dress for Success in New York City in 1996 using a $5000 inheritance check from her great-grandfather. She wanted to honor her great-grandfather's legacy, life, and work by helping others begin long-term careers. Lublin enlisted the help of three nuns from Spanish Harlem, and together, the four organized a program to help women throughout New York City kick start their careers. The organization's main initiative has not changed since Lublin proposed it in 1996. Dress for Success continues now, as it did then, to provide women with business attire to build professional wardrobes and, hopefully, long-term careers. Each Dress for Success client receives one suit when she has a job interview, and if that client finds employment, she may return for more essential pieces for her wardrobe.

As Dress for Success gained exposure, other women throughout the country approached Lublin about bringing the organization to their cities. By 1999, Dress for Success had gone international with over 50 affiliate locations in the US and abroad.

Lublin has since left Dress for Success to head Do Something, a nonprofit group that gives young people the chance to improve their communities, but a number of similarly driven women continue to carry on her work. Dress for Success administrators and staffers offer support to affiliate groups around the world. They also lead fundraising efforts, direct and implement policy, and oversee Dress for Success’ Professional Women’s Group, an association of women seeking to find and maintain employment.

The Professional Women's Group comprises perhaps the most important component of Dress for Success’ service to women. Lublin and her associates developed PWG in 1998 to complement the initial help Dress for Success provided women looking for jobs. PWG provides a long-term support system for women entering the professional field, and the group offers mentoring programs, employment retention seminars, and general information on personal finances and skill-building. PWG members meet once monthly to discuss specific career topics, and many newer PWG members receive mentoring and career coaching. PWG is unique among professional groups in that it urges women to consider their work in relation to their personal obligations. Many Dress for Success clients and PWG members come from low-income families and have children at home, so PWG programs deal not only with employment questions but matters about family and home life as well.

The first PWG chapter in New York City has 29 members in 1998. Today, there are more than 10,000 women involved in PWG affiliate groups throughout the US and Canada. More than 75% of women who have been members of PWG for at least a year retain professional employment. Additionally, 60% of PWG members have improved their credit, while 57% have furthered their educations by receiving a GED or college diploma.

When Nancy Lublin proposed the idea of providing business suits to women in 1996, it is probably safe to claim that she did not expect to see a global Dress for Success and PWG network only twelve years later. Nonetheless, Lublin, herself a woman on top, initiated a movement to help women from low-income areas find and keep good jobs, and her efforts have aided countless women in the US and abroad. The organization she created teaches women to be economically self-sufficient, and in the process, molds a collection of strong mothers, role models, and community leaders.

About The Author:

Gianna Englert

Gianna Englert graduated from Saint Vincent College in 2008 with a BA in political science. She now spends her time reading Great Books in pursuit of a masters degree in liberal arts. She has been a contributor to CapitalistChicks.com since 2005.