When Gloria Gutierrez-Medina was laid off from a good job with a financial company, the mother of four thought things couldn’t get any worse – until they did, when her husband was similarly downsized and the family was forced to apply for government assistance. Then Gutierrez-Medina learned about Dress for Success, an international nonprofit that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.
Far beyond just getting a new outfit, Gutierrez-Medina received from the group renewed self-confidence, professional guidance and preparation for an interview that led to a new job she loves. At the annual fashion show/fundraiser for Dress for Success Des Moines on May 2, she told the audience, “When you helped me by investing in this organization, you helped my entire family.”
To recognize the inspiration and support Dress for Success fosters, this year the Des Moines chapter created the Inspire Award. Its inaugural recipients were DMU President Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D., and Emma Peterson, founder of Tikly, an online ticketing service for artists, organizations and venues.
Jill Niswander, Dress for Success Des Moines co-founder and board member, says the Inspire Award celebrates women who have overcome obstacles and who encourage other women they can, too. “As the first African American female president of a medical university, President Franklin refused to be held back in her chosen path. She was willing to blaze her own trail, and she’s been very visible in our community,” Niswander says.
In her comments at the May 2 event, President Franklin acknowledged that while in society we often are judged on our external appearance, “feeling good about ourselves has to come first from within.”
She added: “I encourage you all to continue to strive for success in all that you do – let that inner light shine, and wear it well. The wrapping of the package, the beautiful bow and sparkles we put on the outside, make for a special gift, but it’s what’s inside that is the real treasure.”
In addition to her leadership at DMU, President Franklin serves on the boards of the Science Center of Iowa, Bankers Trust and the Greater Des Moines Partnership. She served as the 2013 chair of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement in Des Moines and will do so again this year. She’s also a frequent speaker locally and nationally.