Personality: Bianca Stewart Williams – richmondfreepress.com
Whether it’s finding professional attire for a job interview or receiving a guiding hand to stay employed, Bianca Stewart Williams is making sure area women are well-equipped and prepared for the world of work.
Ms. Williams has been leading Dress for Success Central Virginia as its board president since 2018, bringing to the community the not-for-profit organization’s mission of empowering women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive personally and professionally.
“Thousands are disadvantaged and need resources to gain employment and economic status,” Ms. Williams says. “Our purpose is to offer long-lasting solutions that enable women to break the cycle of poverty.”
Ms. Williams joined Dress for Success in November 2015, three years after the Central Virginia affiliate was started. She says she was a client at first. After being displaced from her job, she volunteered helping women with suit fittings and started using the organization’s Career Services program, which provides help with career coaching, résumé reviews, job searches and interview practice. She landed a new job, and from that point, Ms. Williams says, Dress for Success has been “near and dear to my heart.”
Currently, Dress for Success Central Virginia operates from 210 E. Clay St. in Downtown. But Ms. Williams wants to find a building the organization can purchase that has enough space to handle all of the organization’s training, career center services, boutique work and donations. That is her top goal as board president, and she is moving toward it by raising awareness of the organization and bringing in board members who believe in the vision.
Dress for Success relies heavily on the support of the community for its success, both through donations and volunteers who give their time to work with clients.
During the pandemic, Ms. Williams said the need for career help grew, with clients seeking help to retain their jobs or to find new ones.
“Besides physically equipping the client with apparel and accessories, we furnish her with a confidence that she carries forever,” Ms. Williams says, “and the knowledge that she can actively define her life, the direction she takes and what success means to her.”
Meet a leader in helping women find workplace success and this week’s Personality, Bianca Stewart Williams:
No. 1 volunteer position: Board president, Dress for Success Central Virginia.
Occupation: Talent acquisition partner, Virginia Department of Social Services.
Date and place of birth: Oct. 24 in Richmond; raised in city of Petersburg and Dinwiddie County.
Where I live now: Chesterfield County.
Education: MBA from Strayer University.
Family: Married with four children.
Dress for Success is: A global not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
When, where and why founded: Since starting operations in 1997, Dress for Success has expanded to almost 150 cities in 25 countries and has helped more than 1.2 million women work toward self-sufficiency.
When Dress for Success Central Virginia was established: July 2012.
Local founder: Dr. Shantell Chambliss.
Reason Dress for Success is needed in Richmond: Thousands are disadvantaged and need resources to gain employment and economic status. Our purpose is to offer long-lasting solutions that enable women to break the cycle of poverty.
How Dress for Success works: Each woman meets first with a coach who introduces her to the services that are available. She then meets one on one with a volunteer personal shopper who offers her personal attention in selecting an interview outfit. Once employed, the client is invited to return for additional professional attire and to participate in our job retention programs.
Staff and volunteers in our Career Center provide career coaching, job search assistance, interview practice and résumé review to help build professional skills, interview readiness and self-confidence.
The Professional Women’s Group is our job retention program dedicated to helping our employed clients stay employed by providing ongoing support and resources that help each woman achieve self-defined success in career and life.
Clothing provided by: Donors and corporate partnerships.
Importance of clothing and job success: The client leaves Dress for Success with workplace-appropriate clothing and a significant boost in self-esteem.
My Dress for Success power outfit is: A classic black suit.
Advice that is given when clothing is being chosen: Besides physically equipping the client with apparel and accessories, we furnish her with a confidence that she carries forever and the knowledge that she can actively define her life, the direction she takes and what success means to her. This is a “judge free” zone.
How I connected with Dress for Success: I consider myself a former client. I started volunteering with suit fittings when I was displaced from a position. I believed in the mission and started utilizing the Career Services program and landed a job. From there, Dress for Success has been near and dear to my heart.
No. 1 goal or project as board president: To buy a building that will house all training, donations, the career center and boutique.
Strategy for achieving goal: To continue raising awareness about the needs of our services and attending various events to get the word out. Also by recruiting ambitious board members who believe in the vision of this organization.
How Dress for Success is funded: We are 90 percent funded by public donations.
Dress for Success partners with: The Department of Social Services, the YWCA, the City of Richmond Office of Community Wealth Building and numerous other organizations.
Upcoming events: April 30 — Fill A Bag (The Queen Factory-Stony Point Fashion
Park; July 16 — Success in the City (The Links).
Perfect day for me is: Being organized.
What I am learning about myself during the pandemic: I learned that I am not good with long-term stress.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Cooking. It’s therapeutic for me.
Quote that inspires me: “You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.” — Maya Angelou.
My friends describe me as: Compassionate, thoughtful, funny, reserved.
At the top of my “to-do” list: Check on loved ones.
Best late-night snack: No late- night snacks, but I appreciate the sleep. LOL. I have an 8-month-old.
Best thing my parents ever taught me: Stay humble and reach for your dreams, and teach that to my babies as well!
Person who influenced me the most: My aunt, Barbara Wilder. She believed I could do anything.
What I’m reading now: “The Resilience Factor” by Dr. Karen Reivich and Dr. Andrew Shatté.
Next goal: To pursue entrepreneurship. I am starting an HR consulting firm, Stewart Williams Consulting LLC, providing mobile notary and HR consultation for small business owners.