This year, for the first time in history, the Women and Girls Foundation chose to recognize influential men in the Pittsburgh region at their annual Celebrating Women gala. The event on Dec. 1 honored local champions who are helping to advance women’s rights and opportunities.
“Celebrating Women began eight years ago as an annual event to recognize and honor amazing women from myriad disciplines who are serving as role models and breaking barriers in our region,” said Women and Girls Foundation CEO Heather Arnet. “With so many men from our area standing up for women and serving as champions and advocates in the workplace and the community, we thought it was time to shine a light on them. This year, the name of the event stayed the same, but with a slight twist to focus on those being honored—Celebrating woMEN.”
Among them was Michael Glass, CEO of Dress for Success Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization serving disadvantaged women. Glass’ recognition is especially distinctive in that he is also the first man to head a Dress for Success affiliate out of the more than 114 affiliates throughout the country.
“I can honestly say it was one of the few times in my life I was actually surprised by something,” Glass said. “It’s the first time this organization has decided to recognize men. For them to make that decision was a big deal and I was surprised by the honorees. The men they selected have done some amazing things for women in the region.”
Dress for Success’ mission is to promote economic independence by providing tools and a network of support that helps women gain and retain meaningful employment. They start by providing women with professional clothing they can wear during interviews.
“When they leave our front doors, they’re all happy they came and they got the stuff they need. What’s more important is they know they can come back here for professional development,” Glass said. “It’s much more than providing a suit; what we give women is hope and resources. I’m humbled to be apart of it. It’s a compelling mission.”
Last year Dress for Success served 3000 women and since the affiliate was started in Pittsburgh seven years ago, the organization has served 12,000.
“Women are the back bone of society. I come from a very matriarchal family and it’s just important to support the women who really make society work,” Glass said. “Most women who come here are parents so when you change a woman’s life you change a child’s life too. You interrupt that cycle of poverty and dependence. It’s one of those organizations that is one of the best kept secrets in Pittsburgh.”
As a former single parent raising five daughters and having grown up in a household headed by his mother and grandmother, Glass is no stranger to being surrounded by women.
“I know my place. I think I had good training; I was a single parent of five daughters,” Glass said. “It’s not just about having respect for women, but appreciating the contributions they have made. It really is humbling when I’m in the same room with all the Dress for Success affiliates heads.”
Prior to his time with Dress for Success, Glass was the executive director of Northside Common Ministries, a nonprofit organization that addresses issues of hunger and homelessness. He and his wife, Carolyn, are the parents of 10 children.