Dedicated to making sure that women look good so they can feel good as they pursue their professional dreams, Joi is proud to lead Dress for Success Worldwide and promote the economic and social development of disadvantaged women globally. Thanks to the passionate and talented team that Joi has brought together, Dress for Success is able to offer its services to 50,000 women worldwide, each year. Joi also supports America’s Charities, Project Single Mom and several inaugural women’s advisory councils.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: My professional journey at Dress for Success began with me listening to the news one morning and hearing the founder, Nancy Lublin, describe Dress for Success as an organization that gives suits to women who need them. She described how the suit helps a woman feel confident as she walks into her job interview. I knew the feeling that she was describing because I had experienced the power of the suit throughout my own career. I wore a suit everyday as an assistant district attorney in the criminal court system and I knew that my suits exuded power. I called Dress for Success to donate a suit and soon found myself joining their board of directors. I went from suit donor to board member in just one call. Within a year I heeded a deeper calling and left what I was doing to go work for Dress for Success. It is true; one suit can change a woman’s life!
Q: What are 3 characteristics that you believe define great leadership?
A: Vision, Passion, Tenacity
Q: A great negotiation can be game changing for one’s business or life. Studies have shown that men are much more comfortable negotiating and asking for what they want compared to women. What’s your advice to women who are uncomfortable negotiating?
A: Women are some of the most powerful beings on the planet. The challenge is that most of us do not fully recognize or embrace our own power. We are taught from a very young age to be nice, humble, and meek. There is a place for that, but there also comes a time when we must be bold, brazen, confident. Men don’t have a problem with that. Most were never socialized to behave modestly, so they are much more comfortable asking for what they want or believe that they are entitled to. Confidence has to be the engine that drives women’s success. When we believe in who we are and what we have to offer, we are much more comfortable asking, and when necessary, demanding that which is due to us. Dress for Success is well known as the organization that provides suits to women, but the true gift that we are offering our women is confidence- the confidence of knowing that they deserve more out of life, and the confidence they need to go out and get it.
ON Career Transitions
Q: Many people become discontent with their current career yet are too afraid or reluctant to make a change. What’s your best advice for women in this situation?
A: Women were given a unique and special gift called intuition. It’s that little voice in our heads, and those butterflies in our stomach that tell us when it’s time to move in a particular direction. I believe that we are most powerful and most impacting when we are doing what we love– what we were called to do. I never intended to run a global non-profit. I set out to be an attorney. I went to law school and began my career as a prosecutor. At that time I could not have imagined that I would oversee an organization that has more than 115 offices in 15 countries around the globe. That would have been unfathomable to me at that time. But I took small steps, and followed my intuition and it led me right where I am now and right where I am supposed to be. Trust yourself and follow your intuition, we’re all much smarter and much more capable than we imagine ourselves to be.
Q: If you had the opportunity to give advice to your younger self at say the age 13, what would you say?
A: Dear Joi,
There are quite a few things I want to tell you not to worry about. The odd spelling of your name will serve you well later in life; it will make you unique and people will love to tell you how much of a “joy” you are to be around. Live up to the name your mother gave you. Stand up straight and don’t try to make yourself shorter. I know being 5 foot 10 at 13 years old may make you feel like a giant, but it will serve you well later in life and give you the stature you need to walk with a confident stride. As you grow older, you will have the confidence to wear heels and you won’t even mind being a little taller than your peers. Lastly, stop worrying about moving from New York and living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You will incorporate a lot of your new city’s southern charm into your personality and trust me, you will get back to New York City someday soon. When you return you will be kind and generous to others, a trait you’ll thank your southern hospitality for!
Q: What do you think is the key to happiness?
A: I don’t know that there is ONE key to happiness. I think one’s overall happiness is determined by a number of factors. I do think that purpose is an essential factor to happiness though. When we live for purposes that are greater than ourselves we gain a sense of fulfillment that ignites the passion in our lives. My purpose is helping to empower women, and I walk in that through my work at Dress for Success and my involvement in the many charities and organizations that I support which help women and girls. My purpose is also being a great mother- giving all that I can to my daughter and my son, being a great daughter to my mother who gave me everything she could to help me to become the woman I am today, and to being a great wife. My purpose drives my decisions in all aspects of my life. It shapes how I allocate the hours in my day and the causes with which I align myself. I view my happiness as a barometer of how well I am living in my purpose. When I find that I am unhappy, I go back and evaluate how the decisions I am making align with my priorities. As I make the proper adjustments in my life, I find that my happiness quotient increases accordingly.
ON Letting go
Q: What do you do to unwind or disconnect?
A: Who doesn’t love a good spa treatment? I try to schedule a deep tissue massage at least once a month. You’d be surprised how much stress your body can hold onto. Monthly massages allow me to completely unwind both mentally and physically. I realized that when I have four quiet hours to myself on a Saturday or Sunday, I am a much better leader Monday through Friday. During my weekend wind-downs, I can sit in front of the television and watch a marathon of comedic sitcoms. It probably doesn’t do much to stimulate my intellectual capacity, but sometimes laughter can be the best medicine when it comes to letting go.
ON Giving Back
Q: Can you share with us an experience of giving that was extremely rewarding or transformational?
A: A very dear friend of mine runs an organization that provides support to the homeless in NYC. Every year she plans a huge Thanksgiving dinner for 500 homeless men, women and children. I have attended this event for four years as a donor and a supporter. I host a table at the event and sit with the families and talk and laugh. As my children have grown up I have included them in the event and this year it was wonderful to see them invite their friends to volunteer. I am passing the gift of giving along to my children. Next to love, I can think of no greater gift to give.
Q: How do you balance career and motherhood?
A: The key to work/life balance is realizing that balance is a myth. I work hard to ensure that on weekends and during vacations, I am fully engaged and present for my family. When I’m at a basketball game for my son, I am the loudest mom in the bleachers cheering him and his teammates on. I want him to remember the moments that I was there because there will be times that my job will create scheduling conflicts and I won’t be able to be with him. My hope is that my children will remember my cheers from every sideline. I am a believer that when your job is in complete alignment with your happiness, it makes you a better person. I am certain that because I love what I do, I am a better mother.