At a Dress for Success benefit, an editor learns how the organization helps women get back into the workforce.

By Suzanne Rust

Madeline Albright once said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." I couldn't agree more, and surely so would the team at Dress for Success, an uplifting organization that offers assistance to women trying to return to the workforce and helps keep them there. Not only do they provide stylish professional outfits for their first job interviews, but they also offer women access to career counseling and courses in financial literacy. Just check out some of the organization's success stories.

Last week I attended a breakfast hosted by Dress for Success Worldwide to benefit the organization's Professional Women's Group. The event featured a great panel of women at three different stages of their careers: a "pioneer," Norma Kamali, designer and founder of the Wellness Café; a "principal," Sarah Robb O'Hagan, president of Equinox; and a "protégée," Daniella Yacobovsky, cofounder and co–chief executive officer of BaubleBar. Under the guidance of moderator Erica Hill, NBC's Weekend Today co-anchor, the panel spoke about their life and work experiences and the importance of women learning to speak up for themselves, advocate for the things they want in life and dream big.

I wanted to know what they thought moms should be doing to prepare their daughters to be confident individuals, in and out of the workplace. "I think the most important thing is to encourage our girls to bring all of themselves to all they do," said Sara Robb O'Hagan, mother of Sam, 11, Joe, 9, and Gabby, 7. "Don't feel the pressure to edit their amazing personalities down to fit into other people's expectations—just confidently be themselves."

Erica Hill, mother of Weston, 9, and Sawyer, 5, feels fortunate to have grown up in a family and at a time where she never felt anything was out of reach because of her gender. "I work every day to instill those same lessons in my own children: the belief that they can be or do anything, as long as they work hard," said Hill. "I love that they're surrounded by strong role models, both men and women. I think the best way to instill confidence in our children is to model it ourselves: using positive, honest language to talk about success and struggles; bringing them into the workplace and introducing them to a wide variety of industries, careers and people; and encouraging them to follow their passion."

Designer Norma Kamali is not a mom, but she has led many young women on her team over the years. She had this to say: "I think the dreaming-big-dreams piece is very important. My mother did anything she wanted to; she didn't see any barriers anywhere. I thought everyone's mother was like that, but of course, that's not the case! I was so fortunate to have her as my example. If you're a mother and you want to impact your daughter's life, don't give her a false sense of confidence, like that she's perfect or anything, because that's not working out so well for a lot of people. But do let her know that her dreams can be as big as she can imagine, and that having a dream is really an inspiration and a hope. Never let anything get in the way of the dream—that is the key."

Joi Gordon, chief executive officer of Dress for Success Worldwide, has learned something about women through her years with the organization: "Women are resilient; we can overcome any obstacle, any barrier. We just need to believe in ourselves, and sometimes what you need first is someone to believe in you. That's what Dress for Success does. The suits women get from us are more than just suits—they're like life jackets." Gordon explained, "This organization started in New York City and is now in 20 countries and 143 cities around the world, and growing. There's a need to get women back into the workplace so they can have their joy again and feel fulfilled, and that's what the beauty of Dress for Success is all about."

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