MICHAEL GLASS, A MAN ON A MISSION
By: Beth Slagle, Esq.
Founded in 1997, Dress for Success (“DFS”) is a worldwide organization, based in New York City, with more than 114 affiliates in the United States and in other locations around the world. The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by helping them gain and maintain employment. The program that DFS is best known for is the suiting program, where DFS provides suits and other professional attire to disadvantaged women who are returning to or entering the workforce. DFS has greatly expanded its mission and programs beyond the suiting element since the early days, and now also provides programs related to mentoring, career counseling, job preparation and career advancement. With some heavy hitter sponsors and partners like cosmetics guru, Bobbi Brown, QVC and the In Style Network, DFS is a major player in the worldwide game of nonprofits.
No surprise here, but DFS is a female based organization. Its clients are all female, and while there is no impediment to guys being employed by or volunteering for DFS, because of its female focused mission, DFS is overwhelmingly dominated by female employees and volunteers.
So, how does a GUY (with a capital G) get to be the newly minted CEO of one of the fastest growing and successful DFS affiliates in the world? Talent, drive, passion, that’s how. Smart and cutting edge of DFS Pittsburgh to buck the trend and go where no one else has or simply crazy? The leaders and staff of DFS Pittsburgh overwhelmingly answer — smart. The best person for the job was hired.
Meet Michael Glass, CEO of Dress for Success Pittsburgh. Michael happens to be the first male CEO or executive director in the history of DFS worldwide.
When asked what it was about Michael that landed him the top job, Daryl Lucke, Executive Director of Ward Home, Inc., and the human resources chair for the Board of DFS Pittsburgh, says “Michael is a role model who leads with respect, inspires motivation, and realizes goals. He is a spiritual being who transcends gender to fulfill DFS’s mission and empowers others through his innate passion.” Another distinguished and long standing board member, Steffanie Jasper, (VP, Sr. Finance Manager at PNC) conveys that “From the moment Michael walked into the interview room, we instinctively knew there was something special about him. He spoke of his commitment to his six daughters and how, although he felt some trepidation about applying to work for a women focused organization, for him, it was an extension of his commitment to his daughters that compelled him to want to be at the helm of DFS Pittsburgh.”
But even though, in some respects, it was very easy to choose Michael as the CEO, truth be told, it was a really tough decision as well. There were qualified and talented female candidates who applied for the position, but Michael stood out from the rest. As the Chair of the Board for over 5 years (basically since its inception), and having struggled for funding along the way, the big question that we discussed was not whether Michael could handle the job (because we knew he could), but rather whether others could handle him in that position. Would DFS Pittsburgh suddenly lose its “darling” status in the community and be frowned upon by passionate female advocates because we had bucked the trend and hired a guy when there were qualified female applicants? That was the question, but the Board and Staff overwhelmingly decided that we had to go with the best person for the job, and he just so happened to be a guy.
So, what makes Michael so great? A lot of things.
Prior to his marriage to his dynamic (and lovely) wife Carolyn, for 10 years, Michael was a single parent of 5 daughters and one son. Together, Michael and Carolyn have 10 children, two with severe disabilities. With a wink, he states that his 6 daughters “have devoted a great deal of time and energy ensuring that I am properly trained to work with women.”
Anyone who talks with Michael quickly understands that his children are a major driving force in what makes him who he is today. Outnumbered by women in his family dynamic, I questioned what it was like to raise 6 daughters. “My daughters are all strong-willed, independent, responsible, beautiful young ladies, and each as different from the other as night from day. From the time they were very young, they made me understand that I had to empower them through their unique strengths and talents. Because our society is what it is, I never wanted my daughters to be victimized, belittled, or feel subservient to any man. They helped me to learn the delicate balance as a man and as their father, to follow them from the front.” Most of their children have graduated from college or currently attend graduate school, but they still have two school-aged children at home.
There’s no doubt in Constance Mayer’s opinion that Michael’s family life helped shape him as a trusted leader. As the Director of Programs & Operations for DFS Pittsburgh, Constance works with Michael on a daily basis, and she states that “Michael has a personal investment in developing opportunities for women because he was a single parent of 5 girls. He is the first man I have ever worked with who treats women as equals, and that really encourages ownership and creative spirit in our staff.”
Given Michael’s depth of experience in the nonprofit world in assisting underserved populations, the logical question was what drove him to apply for the DFS Pittsburgh position, and the response was rather simple: “I was not looking for a female focused organization. I was looking for an organization with a compelling mission, that is addressing an underserved population, and that is meeting a pressing social need. It just so happens that that organization is DFS Pittsburgh. In my desire for equity and social justice, I have been involved with nonprofits that addressed racism and prejudice, GLBT issues, disability issues, youth and education, hunger and homelessness. I have worked with nonprofits that addressed the needs of men and the needs of youth, but never an organization that was devoted to the economic empowerment of women. DFS Pittsburgh, in a way, closes the circle of mankind for me as well as the circle of social justice issues that are important to me.”
After a six-year tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, which included an assignment with the president of the United States, Michael was the proprietor of a small sales and marketing company in Atlanta, Georgia employing over 30 consultants. In this position, Michael consulted with and mentored young men and women entrepreneurs. While living in Atlanta, Michael was also deeply involved in Civil Rights issues and had the good fortune of working with Hosea Williams, the “battering ram” of the Civil Rights Movement. Michael has always been passionate about social justice issues, advocating for disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
Also passionate about youth and education, Michael volunteers with the African Rural School Foundation and is the former board president of an existing Pittsburgh charter school. Michael’s global, multicultural perspective is informed by the experiences derived from his service in the U.S. Marine Corps, his volunteer work in Uganda as well as his involvement in human rights issues in the United States.
Stating the obvious, Michael Glass is a man on a mission. “I want my investment in life to have meaning and value for someone else. There is probably in me a deep-seated need to serve.” He has led his life embracing what it has to offer, empowering and helping others and, with his newest position, bucking trends along the way.