The CEO of Dress for Success reflects on her experience working with women, her biggest inspirations and more
To celebrate Mother’s Day, our Creative Director Elena Kiam talks to Joi Gordon, the Chief Executive Officer of Dress for Success, whose ultimate mission is to help women—the majority of which happen to be mothers—reenter and succeed in the workforce. Here, Joi reflects on her work with the non-profit organization, the women she’s most inspired by everyday and her biggest influence in life—her mother.
Elena: The heart of lia sophia and Dress for Success are the inspirational women and their journeys. Can you share one story that really inspired you?
Joi: I am inspired differently everyday. I am inspired by the gleam in a woman’s eye when she comes to Dress for Success for the first time and sees herself in a professional business suit adorned with lia sophia jewelry. I am inspired when she comes back and tells us that she aced her interview and landed the job and will now earn enough money to feed her children.
Last year, at our annual Success Summit, we gifted all of the attending Dress for Success clients a lia sophia necklace that featured the Charmed One necklace, with a beautiful key-shaped pendant. We offered it as a reminder to our women that they hold the key to their own success. Approximately six months later, I was traveling internationally and I ran into one of those women. She introduced herself to me, told me that she was a Dress for Success client and that she had attended our Success Summit. She then showed me her lia sophia necklace and told me that she had not taken it off since she received it that day. She told me that every time she sees it around her neck she is reminded of her own power. That is what really inspires me.
Elena: What part of the experience of working with women to get them back on their feet most inspires you?
Joi: I am most fulfilled when I receive invitations to our women’s college graduations, or photos of them receiving proclamations from their local government or clippings of them being recognized in the news for their leadership and contributions to their community. Many of the women that we serve often come to us with pasts colored by abuse, tragedy and hardship. Yet, with our help, they rediscover and realize their own potential to succeed. Today, many Dress for Success women sit in places of leadership and serve as advocates for other women who have walked in their shoes. At Dress for Success we do not judge where a woman has been, but we celebrate and encourage where we know that she is going.
Elena: Who have been your biggest influences in life and why?
Joi: My biggest influence has been and will always be my mother. I am the daughter of a single mom and I watched my mother work and sacrifice so that I would have the tools I needed to grow up and become a productive, self-sufficient woman. Because of the example that my mother set for me as a child, and because of the relationship that I enjoy with her today, I personally know the power that being a working woman can have to change not only the woman’s life, but that of her family as well. It is interesting that more than 80 percent of the women served by Dress for Success are mothers. Mothers are powerful beings. My mother was the first woman to show me who I could become as an adult. I now want to ensure that Dress for Success empowers the mothers that we serve to be able to confidently and courageously serve as a source of inspiration for their children, too.