The beauty mafia

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The Independent Online

Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) promotes networking and leadership in the beauty industry. Its 600 UK members include anyone who's anyone in war paint, from brand managers to product developers to beauty journalists.

"I would never want to go to an event that was just a makeover or a luncheon club," says Caroline Neville, president of CEW. "But if you were going to tell me about tax laws, intellectual copyright, green cosmetics – that I would want go to."

These are some of the topics CEW has recently discussed at its power breakfasts.

"We meet at The Avenue in St James's – a perfect white space. I'm from a PR background, so anything I put on was always going to have style and quality. We pay minimal fuss to the breakfast, just plenty of coffee."

Guest speakers might be stars – the actor Sarah Jessica Parker has attended to discuss celeb fragrances – or CEOs. Networking opportunities are dizzying.

"A younger member on a low-price ticket could find herself next to the managing director of a major brand," says Neville. "It's what we need if we're going to make young women leaders. In the US, where CEW started in the 1950s, it's now 4,000-strong and you have to be a member to get anywhere in the industry. CEW France is more elitist; you have to be an MD to join. Here I run mentoring schemes to bring people up through the ranks.

"Unlike fashion, there isn't a formalised way to enter the beauty industry through college. So we, CEW, act like an informal training school."

What do men make of it? "We have a big issue with men, I have to say. They all want to join."