By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The Career Wardrobe is a non-profit that knows the power of a suit. Tomorrow the group will honor a woman who is helping to fashion a future for the women around her.
"My father taught me a woman can do anything a man can do with the power of education," says Kathleen Wilkinson, an attorney based in Philadelphia. Wilkinson will receive the Fashioning Futures for Women Award at tomorrow's "A Perfect Fit: Celebrating the Story of My Suit" fundraiser.
Listen to Cherri Gregg's interview with Kathleen Wilkinson in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 8:42):
"I was humbled to receive this award," says Wilkinson. "To know that I am helping other women have a career, it was just really humbling."
The northern New Jersey native says she did not know any lawyers growing up, but became inspired after watching Katharine Hepburn in Adam's Rib.
"When I first saw that, I thought, 'Oh my God, look at that woman -- she has style, she has grace, that's me!' " says Wilkinson. "I said, 'Wow, what an inspiration.' "
But making the dream become reality wasn't easy, she notes. She worked at ShopRite during college, and then law school, where she excelled.
These days, Wilkinson is a partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP and chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, where she uses her influence to champion other women.
"I have established a Women's Law Firm initiative where all the law firms in Philadelphia meet on a regular basis to share best practices on how to help women partners succeed, how to mentor women attorneys, how to help women associates succeed, how to get business and be inspirational," says Wilkinson.
She also established the Chancellor's Leadership Institute, where she brings in thought leaders to teach women attorneys, young attorneys, and others how to be successful.
"I found women who were senior to me who could help me, and because of those early beginnings and learning that women should help other women it's always been a part of my DNA," she says.
But Wilkinson is not all business. She's a wife and mother with a genuine love of fashion.
"I like fashionable jewelry, I like fashionable shoes," says Wilkinson, who wore a navy and white zebra print suit to her KYW Newsradio interview. "I don't think you have to look dull and boring to be an effective woman or effective bar leader."
The "A Perfect Fit" fundraiser will include a fashion show of media professionals who will donate the suits they model to the women of Career Wardrobe. For more information on Career Wardrobe, go to CareerWardrobe.org.
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