A Local Non-Profit Suits Women and Keeps Them Work Ready

Suited for Change helps increase employment and job retention and is the leading non-profit for women in need of professional attire and job readiness education.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are over 74.6 million women in the civilian labor force, and over 47 percent of U.S. workers are women. Women are almost half of the workforce, but on average earn less than men in virtually every single occupation. In 2017, it was reported Institute for Women’s Policy Research that full-time, year-round women only made 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Nita Beecher, an attorney at the Legal Counsel for the Institute of Workplace Equality, said that how women dress as work had become less of an issue than when she started working. In her field, everyone was required to wear the same suit. 

“There was a time when I first started working as an attorney where judges would send you home if you had on pants rather than a skirt. So that is progress right there,” Beecher said.

Suited for Change, founded in 1992, helps women look the part for their future employers and makes sure that women are always dressed for the work environment. It is accessible to local women entering the job market or recently employed.

Vera, who declined to give her last name for confidentiality reasons, moved out of a homeless shelter in Alexandria after finding employment through Suited for Change. Through many suiting appointments with volunteers, she was hired as a shelter services specialist. “It feels so good each and every day that I get to go to work,” she said.

They have a team of volunteers that work one-on-one with clients and help clients select “appropriate attire” from their boutique and pop up shops. Not only are clothes given away, Suited for Change leads job readiness and life skills seminars. These seminars focus mainly on financial literacy, customer service, and conflict management.

“Having managers that can identify with some of the experiences of their women employees, or managers that are open to understanding what it feels like … helps to be able to dispel some of the issues they may have in the workplace,” said Sena Tsikata, who works in communications and development of Suited for Change.

Suited for Change helps over 120 women monthly and has served over 26,800 women since 1992. Volunteers and Amazon Shoppers even have the option to make Suited for Change their non-profit of choice.

Forty percent of managers are women, and 24 percent of Senior Vice Presidents are women, as reported by the Center for American Progress. Despite the numbers, women are still more likely to be passed over for high-profile assignments. Suited for Change uses their impact, along with the Legal Counsel for the Institute of Workplace Equality, to make sure that women in the workplace are heard.

Ivana, who declined to give her last name, was diagnosed with clinical depression making it hard for her to work and liver her daily life.

Before Suited for Change, she was out of work for three years. Ivana was referred to Suited for Change and was not only given three new outfits to add to her wardrobe, but she was given the resources to help make her the best candidate for her job. Ivana got the job.

“My goal is to be a well-rounded person, and not let my illness get in the way,” she said.