$207,000 Grant Will Create EmployHer Pittsburgh To Empower Local Women

The initiative is a collaboration between Dress for Success Pittsburgh, When She Thrives and New Century Careers.


A new locally funded initiative aims to empower women throughout the Pittsburgh region and beyond.

Dress for Success Pittsburgh has announced that the Richard King Mellon Foundation will award a grant of $207,000 to support the development of EmployHER Pittsburgh. The initiative is designed to “change the trajectory of participants’ lives by empowering women of the household to become financially independent,” according to a press release. 

“EmployHER Pittsburgh will remove the barriers that lack of access to adequate transportation and childcare create for so many local women by bringing multiple nonprofit organizations to the communities of the women being served on a regular basis,” said Tanya Vokes, CEO of Dress for Success Pittsburgh, in a statement. “Onsite childcare will be available, providing women the opportunity to focus on supportive services for empowerment, education and employment advancement.”

The idea was born from a partnership that started at the Building Productive Partnerships pilot in April 2021. Dress for Success Pittsburgh, an organization that provides professional attire to women in need, partnered with When She Thrives and New Century Careers to brainstorm a productive collaboration, and the result was the development of EmployHER.

Dress for Success Pittsburgh focuses on professional development through equitable access to attire, When She Thrives commits to assisting single mothers and their families and New Century Careers provides inclusive access to technical training opportunities. EmployHER will combine the most successful aspects of all three, with a goal of providing access to better employment, personal development and education opportunities for women in Allegheny County.

The founding organizations say the need for EmployHER Pittsburgh is critical, especially now; the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women, with more than 2 million women leaving the workforce in 2020 alone because of disparities in childcare, unemployment, wage reduction, inability to work from home, school closures and more. 

In Pittsburgh, 75% of households classified as poor are headed by single moms, and ⅔ of those households are Black single mothers. A 2019 Gender and Equity report commissioned by the city revealed that Pittsburgh is one of the worst cities in the country for the health and economic outcomes of Black women, and so EmployHER’s founders say there is a marked need for services that are inclusive, holistic and accessible to women who need them. 

And, the services will be tailored to each woman’s individual needs.

“EmployHER Pittsburgh is unique because we are encouraging women to identify and define success on their own terms,” said Tiffany Huff-Strothers, CEO of When She Thrives, in the release. “No one is telling participants what they need to do to be considered a success. EmployHER Pittsburgh is focused on the individual, each woman and family have unique terms of success. It’s time our services reflect those needs.”

The three founding organizations also encourage other groups with similar services to participate in its resource centers. At these centers, each attendee “will have a personal concierge who will assist them in developing a path to ensure her specific needs are met,” according to Neil Ashbaugh, president and CEO of New Century Careers. Organizations that are interested in participating are encouraged to send an email to pittsburgh@dressforsuccess.org.

The grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will help the initiative to reach its full potential.

“The Foundation is eager to support collaborations between organizations such as this, because nonprofits can have an even greater positive impact when they work together,” Director Sam Reiman said in a statement. “We also were impressed by the individualized approach of EmployHER Pittsburgh, to help each woman they work with define and achieve success on her own terms.”

The founding organizations will share more information about the program — including the dates and locations of the pop-up resource centers — in the near future.

Categories: The 412