When CEO Joi Gordon thought about the opportunities she had been given to network and attend seminars or conferences that would advance her career as a young lawyer, and after joining Dress for Success Worldwide, she realized there was a real gap for the low-resource women we serve. Once they are given free suits for their interviews and professional attire for their new jobs, what else did they need to help them retain employment and achieve economic independence? Where could they get high-quality professional development when they can’t afford it, can’t get release time from work for a luncheon or conference, or often, don’t feel they belong in the room? Her answer was PWG – the Professional Women’s Group.
After a new affiliate begins, such as ours in the Quad Cities, it takes 18 months to develop enough capacity to begin hosting these free monthly seminars. We chose to provide a meal and childcare to reduce barriers to participation. Despite a strong PWG startup in January 2013, our energy and focus started to lag within a few years. With our suiting program growing by 30-40% per year, we needed help to improve this important and transformative “Next Step to Success” program.
We turned to the Iowa Women’s Foundation. We were thrilled when our first grant award was approved for 2016. This started us on the path to growing a vibrant, empowering sisterhood of support. Active membership and graduations of the year-long program increased significantly. The current grant support for 2019 supports the new PWG Alumnae especially for PWG graduates on topics such as Work-Life Balance (see photos from recent session). PWGA pairs grads and volunteers working as a team to create on-going programs four times per year – improving the lives of Iowa’s women and their families.