Donna de Zwart

“I think if I’m not moved by what the people are going through, then I shouldn’t be in this job.”

 Donna always had to work. Even after the birth of her children, she was back in the office within weeks. She considers herself lucky. During some really tough times in her life, work was what got her through. “It gave me a sense of normality where I didn’t have it any more in my life.”

Donna understands first-hand how employment can make a difference to a woman’s life. “I think work is so much more than a paycheque. It gives you a sense of self-worth and dignity.

This belief was what led Donna to her current role.

“I wasn’t looking for a CEO position – titles don’t inspire me.” A friend encouraged her to apply, and even though Donna didn’t’ think she was a perfect candidate, she “threw her hat in the ring” because she truly believed in the cause Fitted for Work was supporting. “No one was surprised more than me when I got the job. And now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Donna worked with the disadvantaged and dealt with the issues of diversity and inclusiveness in her previous leadership roles, but once she joined Fitted for Work, she found there was more to learn.

“It still shocks me to hear the individual stories and learn what women are going through.  And I hope it always will. I think if I’m not moved by what the people are going through, then I shouldn’t be in this job.”

Coming to an organisation with limited resources and no extra money proved a challenge. But succeeding against the odds, being creative to get results despite limitations is what gives Donna the most satisfaction.  “The creativity is what’s driving us to be innovative in order to get results. Whether it’s social enterprises we are developing, the way I can reward my staff, I just had to become more creative. And for me, that’s what really floats my boat.”

In the role since January 2015, Donna is proud of what the organisation has become and where it’s headed. She has big plans for Fitted for Work – being self-sufficient, being widely accessible via appropriate technology, employing more women who need a head start in their career journeys like migrants and refugees.  Donna wants the government and businesses to recognise the value of what the organisation is offering and contribute. “We know we are providing a service that’s changing women’s lives, their families’ lives, and their community.”

Donna also wants to continue to make the Fitted for Work experience for clients beautiful in every way. “I believe that everyone deserves beauty and sanctuary, and that’s what I think Fitted for Work is all about. When you have a series of beautiful experiences and interactions with people in a beautiful environment, it raises people sense of self and dignity. If you take time and care to make what you do beautiful, what you are really saying is – you are doing it with love and compassion.”