Working smart to support women into work

February 21, 2019Olivia Cheetham

Do we discount valuable talent and potential based on appearance? Is this an extra burden on women facing the greatest need of employment support? Lack of confidence can destroy interview performance and for women trying to make a new start when feeling dejected after illness, long term unemployment, homelessness or detention, making a good impression can seem practically and psychologically impossible.

Our Client Care Manager was delighted to attend a charity lunch for the charity Smart Works in Birmingham earlier this month as the guest of one of our clients, Helen Charteris of Charteris Global Search. On the same day as the Birmingham lunch, HRH The Duchess of Sussex, the charity’s Royal Patron was visiting their London offices for a feature in Vogue and her endorsement will raise their profile immeasurably.

Smart Works does transformational work with unemployed women with great need but little self-belief, after suffering challenging circumstances and a series of job rejections. It provides individual coaching and a complete outfit, so they can attend interviews looking and feeling better than they could ever have imagined, allowing them to shine.  Sixty percent of interviewees are successful following this consultation and to enable them to start their new job, they are given another five stylish garments to form a working wardrobe. They can then join the charity’s network of women to continue their progress and self-improvement. Giving these women time, advice and aspirational clothes changes lives. 

The charity’s patron, Jane Shepherdson CBE, former Brand Director of Topshop and CEO of Whistles, explained that while high-end fashion brands donated many of the beautiful garments and accessories, it was not just about clothes but the respect that these women were shown from their first encounter with the charity which made the difference. She inspired the audience to support Smart Works, and to have confidence in their instincts and abilities by recounting stories from her impressive career.

As well as being enthused to raise funds for the charity, the event led the predominantly female audience to question the relationship between appearance and esteem. Conversations confirmed that while business wear had become less formal in recent years, women felt subject to greater pressure to appear attractive and youthful to be employable.  While fashion was a pleasure, the trend for cosmetic procedures seemed an imposition, but an increasingly understandable one given current associations between success and conformity. It will be interesting to see how this debate develops.

Easypay will be raising money to support Smart Works this year.