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Low-income women get career makeovers for International Women’s Day

March 27, 2015
Christina Gray

She used to have a job with gourmet grocery retailer Mollie Stone’s, but Elizabeth Missamore of San Francisco, a butcher by trade, hasn’t worked since 2008. After getting a free haircut, an armful of career attire and some professional resume and interview skill advice on March 12 at St. Anthony Foundation, she’s feeling more confident about reentering the job market.

“I feel like a different person,” said Missamore, who admired the new look volunteer beautician Jamie Lockhart gave her in a makeshift salon set up inside the foundation’s former dining room.

Missamore was among 20 unemployed, underemployed, low-income or homeless women who are looking at themselves and their job prospects in a whole new light after participating in the foundation’s first “From One Closet to Another” event offered in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8. 

St. Anthony’s serves nearly 4,500 women each year, 40 percent of whom are unemployed and seeking services for themselves and their families. Nearly all of the women attending the women’s day event live in nearby shelters or low-income housing.

The half-day event featured a presentation on dressing for success followed by a free “shopping” trip in a roomful of gently-used blazers, skirts, slacks, shoes, bags and belts. Visibly uplifted after receiving free haircuts offered by two volunteer hair stylists, the women then met in with volunteers from the foundation’s Tenderloin Technology Lab – including one Google executive – to discuss resume building and interview tips.

Dolores Gould, St. Anthony’s manager of corporate relations and a former executive with Career Closet, a nonprofit that helps unemployed women return to work, began the day with a 30-minute presentation on the importance of image to prospective job-seekers.

“People can’t hear who we are if our image doesn’t match it,” she told the women as she showed them examples of fashion faux pas and best practices in terms of career dressing. “That’s the power of image.”

She told the women that social scientists studies have shown that when we meet someone, about 55 percent of what we determine about someone is based on a first impression.

“Your image can actually get in the way of you communicating who you are and the work you can do,” she said.

Dress for Success, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping women achieve “self-defined” success in their personal and professional lives, was also on hand as were volunteer vocational counselors, including Frank Woodeshick and Evan Kuhnert, a project manager at Google.

Pope Francis acknowledged International Women’s Day during a Vatican celebration on March 8. He reaffirmed “the importance and necessity of women’s presence,” and said that, “A world where women are marginalized is a sterile world because women are not only bearers of life, but they help us see beyond. They give us the ability to see with different eyes, to understand things with hearts that are more creative, patient and tender.”

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