Getting women back to work

31 March 2022

Women, both in the workplace and at home, have been disproportionately affected by the global pandemic. flow shares how Deutsche Bank is partnering with Dress for Success, a women’s support organisation that has evolved into a formidable agent of change, providing services that go far beyond what its name suggests

The Covid-19 pandemic was yet another reminder of how women were impacted more than men by the social and economic effects of this kind of outbreak. As Nature put it in 2020, “They bear the brunt of care responsibilities as schools close and family members fall ill. They are at greater risk of domestic violence and are disproportionately disadvantaged by reduced access to sexual- and reproductive-health services. Because women are more likely than men to have fewer hours of employed work and be on insecure or zero-hour contracts, they are more affected by job losses in times of economic instability.”1

Employment hit

According to an April 2021 Oxfam report, the Covid crisis had, at that point, cost women around the world “at least US$800bn in lost income in 2020, equivalent to more than the combined GDP of 98 countries”. The report continued, “Globally, women lost more than 64 million jobs last year — a 5% loss, compared to 3.9% loss for men.”2

Dress for Success,3 a global not-for-profit organisation that empowers women to achieve economic independence provides a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Based in New York City, it began operations in 1997, and has since expanded to almost 150 cities in 25 countries and helped more than 1.2 women work towards self-sufficiency. It does this through the affiliate programme, a community-level non-profit that serves a specific area and fulfills the Dress for Success mission locally.

Analysis of the charity’s affiliate data adds further detail of the sheer scale of the job losses.

  • 77% of its affiliates report clients have been laid off/terminated;
  • 73% report clients are facing financial hardship;
  • 59% report clients face food insecurity due to job loss;
  • 58% report clients have been furloughed; and
  • 51% report clients’ housing is at risk due to job loss.

Indeed, in the wake of the pandemic, women have left the workplace at an alarming rate and those that have remained struggle with significant issues around balancing childcare and housework, increased workloads and loss of confidence. Burn-out is on the rise – McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report (September 20214), notes, “Women are even more burned out now than they were a year ago, and burnout is escalating much faster among women than among men. One in three women says that they have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year, compared with one in four who said this a few months into the pandemic. Additionally, four in ten women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs—and high employee turnover in recent months suggests that many of them are following through.”

Achieving economic independence

Dress for Success is the only global nonprofit employment resource for women and has helped 1.2 million women achieve economic independence. Because of its roots and name, Dress for Success is best known for its mission of helping women secure professional attire, and it still provides that service. Once a client has scheduled a job interview, she can obtain a referral to visit a local Dress for Success boutique and work with volunteers to choose an interview outfit.

These days, the organisation tackles the challenges women face in achieving economic advancement in many additional ways. Dress for Success Career Centres, for example, help women prepare for jobs by offering CV writing, mentoring, interview skills practice, and help with researching job opportunities online. The organisation also makes job training, career planning and financial literacy assistance available.

In addition, Dress for Success programmes allow women to meet regularly to support and encourage each other through networking and discussions of workplace-related topics.

More than three-quarters of the women who complete the group’s workforce development programming are employed within 90 days, the organisation says. Furthermore, four out of five financial literacy workshop participants achieve some form of financial stability by the end of the completed program, the group reports.

Deutsche Bank support

In addition to financial support, Deutsche Bank is currently showing its commitment to Dress for Success through the participation of Alice Neumann, Head of Corporate Bank Americas, in the nonprofit’s Your Hour, Her Power campaign. The campaign asks women to donate one hour of their pay to the organisation.

As part of that campaign, Dress for Success’ “31 Days of Women in Power” aims to inspire hope and resilience among women by honouring 28 groundbreaking women in leadership positions, including Deutsche Bank’s Neumann.

“Women around the world need access to the resources and tools that can empower them to achieve their dreams,” Neumann says. “As a leader in financial services, one of my priorities is to create more opportunities to uplift and empower other women. This campaign is a chance to extend these goals beyond our daily spheres of influence, and help more women thrive.”

In her video on the Neumann’s fundraising campaign website she reflects, “Someone once said that behind every successful woman is a community of other successful women cheering her on. That saying could not be more true as I reflect on my success and the many women that have supported, mentored and sponsored me along the way.”


1 See https://go.nature.com/3JUuDlk at nature.com
2 See https://bit.ly/3iPDNU4 at oxfam.org
3 See https://bit.ly/3tMFV5n at dressforsuccess.org
4 See https://mck.co/36AGVB0 at mckinsey.com

Alice Neumann, Head of Corporate Bank Americas

Alice Neumann is Head of Corporate Bank Americas

Her fundraising page, Dress for Success: Your Hour, Her Power, where Alice talks about how she is determined to create more opportunities to uplift and empower other women can be viewed here

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