Dress for Success Ottawa empowers women for employment

Annual Stepping Out fundraiser returns to Lago Bar Grill View at Dow's Lake Pavilion

Editor's Note

OBJ.Social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark MotorsMarilyn Wilson Dream Properties, the Shaw Centre and Sparks Dental. Read their stories here.


They say it takes less than 30 seconds to make a first impression, which is why it’s so important to always put your best foot forward.

Or, in the case of Dress for Success Ottawa, your best shoe.

The non-profit organization is all about empowering women to achieve economic independence by supporting them through the job interview process with the right clothes and resumé and by helping them gain better confidence and self-esteem. It served more women last year than ever, with 900-plus clothing appointments. It also relied on 198 active volunteers contributing 6,500 hours of their time. 

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Dress for Success held its signature annual fundraiser, Stepping Out, on Friday night at Lago Bar Grill View at Dow’s Lake Pavilion. While there were some fellows in the crowd, the evening really does have a girls’-night-out feel to it.

It’s also safe to say the evening grossed more than $55,000, according to organizers.


This year’s Take on the World theme featured food and drinks, pampering stations, live and silent auction items and prizes, a DJ and dancing.

A fan favourite remains the annual shoe competition, with Margot Sunter, chief operating officer of sponsor GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants, serving as a judge with Kate Headley, vice president of the board for Dress for Success Ottawa, and Nicole Darechuk, founder of sponsor Terradare Solutions and chair of the organizing committee. Headley, who’s also a principal at McMillan Vantage Policy Group, was joined by her boss, managing director Robyn Osgood.

Loyal attendees included Dress for Success board member Marlene Floyd, national director of corporate affairs for Microsoft and a 2018 Forty Under 40 recipient. It’s been almost a decade since she helped to co-found the charity in Ottawa while serving as the inaugural head of its board.

“I’m so proud,” she told OBJ.social as she looked around the room and marvelled at all the new and unfamiliar faces.

“When we started, I think we recognized that it would be big but we didn’t realize how big it would get,” said Floyd. “We didn’t have staff for the first two years and now we have three full-time staff. It’s really phenomenal to see how the community has supported us.”


The crowd heard during the Gowling WLG Executive Lounge Hour from Dress for Success ambassador Marnie Tyerman, who was first introduced to the organization in 2014. She said it was during a time when she was rebuilding her life as a single mother, after having fled an abusive marriage.

The organization provided her with professional attire for interviews. It also connected her to programs aimed at providing women with the proper skills for getting back into the employment game.

Tyerman spoke about the sensitivity and compassion she received at Dress for Success, and how the organization supported her every step of her journey.

“Thank you very much, Dress for Success, for the impact you have made on my life and for the thousands of women for whom you have helped build a foundation of success,” said Tyerman.

“Each of these women will go out into this world and share the dignity, respect and knowledge with someone else, and lift each other along the way.”


Radio personality “Stuntman” Stu Schwartz from Majic 100 was back to lead the live auction. He was accompanied by his 11-year-old daughter, Isabella Schwartz, who’s a chip off the old block. 

Fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogger Dominique Baker was left with a serious case of footwear envy after once again hosting this year’s shoe competition. Finalists showed off their fabulous entries while Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Were Made for Walking was drowned out by cheers. This year’s winners for best flats, heels and most creative shoes were Nathalie Paris, social worker Justine Ogle, Bibi Saleema Hakim and Kyle Lambert, a lawyer in the Ottawa office of McMillan LLP.

Attendees also included St. Joe’s Women’s Centre director Marsha Wilson with her colleagues from A New Day. It’s the first residential program in Ottawa for survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

Tim Hortons franchise owner Lesley Holmes turned out with a large contingent of female friends. It’s a tradition for her to host a pre-party at her home in the Glebe before heading to Stepping Out.


— caroline@obj.ca

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