“Because that’s what we want: to make a contribution again.”
On International Women’s Day on Monday she wants other mature women to “concentrate on the amazing things they have to offer”.
I think they intuitively know that when we lift one of our sisters up, we all rise.
Donna de Zwart, Fitted for Work CEO
“We have to believe in ourselves more without being so hard on ourselves. We need to know when to seek help without feeling ashamed, and know we have got this,” says Ms Scott, who is now doing job interviews again and feeling very positive about them.
Fitted for Work CEO, Donna de Zwart, says it is especially important that women in Ms Scott’s over-50s age bracket get whatever support they need to quickly enable them to regain work.
Older women are among those struggling hard to re-enter the workforce after the pandemic, and the federal government’s job stimulus package focuses on those 35 and under. Older women are also the fastest growing co-hort of homeless Australians.
“If you are 55 and have drawn down on what little super you have, how are you going to make that up? There’s never been more urgency [to get them into work] and we’re really concerned that if we don’t the status of women is going to go backwards,” she said.
Ms de Zwart says she is heartened every International Women’s Day to see the organisation “slammed” with large volumes of beautiful clothes, shoes and handbags from corporate women and organisations who support Fitted For Work.
Often, these come with an extra gift, in the form of a loving note in a pocket. “Quite often when women donate handbags or clothing we’ll find little notes of hope,” she says.
“Those notes will say things like, ‘This handbag brought me luck when I went to my last job interview’, or ‘This was my favorite jacket, it always made me feel and good I hope it makes you feel good too’. Or even something as simple as, ‘You’ve got this’.”
During the pandemic, fittings for clients have all needed to be done virtually, and parcels of outfits and accessories are posted to the recipient. Should they not fit, they can be posted back and others sent. When women start work, they receive a fresh batch to thicken out their wardrobes.
Ms de Zwart says donors often remain connected to the group, which she believes in part is because they know anyone can find themselves needing a hand.
“Every woman has a story; every woman knows another woman who through no fault of her own has found herself experiencing disadvantage. It doesn’t matter what socio-economic background you have, no one’s immune and I think because of that relatability, and a bit of ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ sort of thing, women get that,” says Ms de Zwart.
“I think they intuitively know that when we lift one of our sisters up, we all rise. That’s what we experience every day.”
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Wendy Tuohy is a Sunday Age senior writer.