Cost of living crisis sees women struggle to afford suitable workwear

Smart Works helps women re-entering the job market build their confidence with interview coaching and styling sessions.

A charity dedicated to supporting women into employment says women struggle to prepare for their job interviews due to soaring living costs.

Smart Works say women are facing significant challenges finding work due to the cost of living crisis as demand rises for the service in Scotland.

Volunteers also say many of their clients are left taking up roles they’re over-qualified for just to make ends meet.

Carys Roberts is outreach lead for the hub in Glasgow, which opened in 2022.

She said women come to the service for coaching and to help find suitable clothes.

“Many of our clients are parents returning to work after a prolonged break and need to get back to work as soon as possible due to increasing costs.

“They might be struggling with childcare of finding Esol classes at their levels.

“It’s about restoring belief and confidence in themselves. It’s really needed.”

Carys says women 'see themselves in a new light' after coming to Smart Works

Carys describes seeing woman experience their “magic mirror moment” as one of their favourite parts of their working day.

“We have volunteer dressers, like personal stylists – It’s like a movie makeover,” she said.

“They might not have anything appropriate or can’t afford to buy anything new for the interview. We’ll help pick out an incredible smart outfit so people aren’t worrying about what they are wearing.

“When they come out, have the outfit on, they see themselves in a new light. That confidence starts to return. They think ‘I can do this.'”

The charity has a high success rate in Scotland – with 71% of women they help getting a job within the first month.

Carys added: “To get that call once they get the job is fantastic- we’re often the first people they’ll call.

“Historically the skills, talents and attributes of women have all been undervalued.

“Hopefully our service gives a voice to clients and helps remove barriers to get back in to work. They’ve got so much to offer.”

According to a survey by the organisation women are applying for around 33 jobs a year on average without finding work.

Due to the cost of living crisis, they say they face significant pressure to accept any job they can even if its low pay.

Dressing volunteer Elaine Taylor

Dressing volunteer Elaine Taylor said women face “significant barriers” into work, such as money for travel, suitable clothing and childcare.

“It’s very clear many women don’t have spare money – that’s a significant barrier to employment and provide for families.

“It’s one thing applying and getting the interview, another having an outfit.

“Often we have women nervous and apprehensive, it’s a bit of an unknown. But we provide a safe environment.

“It’s so humbling and rewarding to see them leave happy and confident. It’s an emotional experience, with tears on both sides.

“Just getting their foot in the door is what smart works wants to help with.”

“Our clients aren’t just a number, we listen to their individual needs. It’s a personal service,” added volunteer Lauren Malcolm.

“When you look the part, you feel the part. Women feel transformed depending on the outfit they are wearing.”

‘My confidence skyrocketed after landing a job’

Rachel Shearer landed a job at an international fashion retailer after coaching with Smart Works

Rachel Shearer was out of work for several years.

She had to leave university as she was struggling with her mental health.

With the help of Smart Works, she landed a job at an international clothing retailer.

She said: “I was nervous explaining why I was out of work for so long, it’s not a fun story. I was in such a dark place for such a long time.

“But I was given the confidence to know I could be honest and still put my best face forward.

“I got the job and I’ve been there since.”

She said her self-esteem has “skyrocketed” since being back in work.

She said: “This time last year I was so nervous because the gap had been so long. The longer you leave it, the harder it is.

“Now I feel that I can do anything. I’m proof you can get better with the right resources and support.”

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