Business as a force for good has become a major theme in the current retail landscape: from Patagonia and Outland Denim, to Flora & Fauna and Thankyou. Beauty firm Mecca is also on its own journey, having put women front and centre in its business for the past 25 years. From being founded and run by a majority female team – 95 per cent of Mecca’s team are women – to making a female-friendly shopping experience both in-store and online, Mecca champions women in whatever way it
way it can. In 2017, the business decided to make this relationship more explicit with the launch of M-Power: an arm within the business that is focused on supporting girls through secondary school. M-Power was relaunched in 2022 to broaden the way that it supports women across the world. “[Mecca] turned 25 at the end of last year, and we decided that it was time to be bolder and braver in our mission,” M-Power’s executive director Lisa Keenan told Inside Retail. “We spent some time evaluating how we could make some big societal change with the platform that we have [and] decided that the best way would be to become advocates for gender equality more broadly.” Through this organisation, Mecca has put 10,000 women through secondary school, and now injects funding into 21 social enterprises around the world that aim to educate, support and represent women. According to Keenan, tackling an issue as big as gender inequality requires collective action and is outside of the scope of singular efforts. As such, M-Power went from focusing on womens’ education, health and safety, to including economic participation and representation. “One of the big responsibilities and opportunities that we have is to use our brand and our platform to draw attention to the issues and agendas of the organisations that we work with,” Keenan explained. For example, M-Power funds Bridge It, an organisation tackling female homelessness, as well as CAMFED, a pan-African movement that helps women access education. It also works with First Australians Capital, which amplifies First Nations women-led businesses, as well as The Man Cave – a social enterprise that is focused on mental health and emotional intelligence for boys. The Man Cave, in Keenan’s view, is a great example of a charity with a positive downstream effect: by educating boys on how to become responsible adults, it could lead to a reduction in violence against men and women moving forward. And, recently, M-Power worked together with female-focused media publication Missing Perspectives to drive greater female representation in the media landscape. A new perspective Founded in 2021 by Phoebe Saintilan-Stocks, Missing Perspectives employs and contracts female writers to deliver content to a mostly female audience. “I founded Missing Perspectives after reading a Gates Foundation report that said around 15 per cent of news protagonists were women,” Saintilan-Stocks explained to Inside Retail. According to Saintilan-Stocks, Mecca contacted her in 2022 about working together as a content partner. This has now expanded to include Missing Perspectives’ work on the M-Power homepage. This year, the publication posted 50 bespoke pieces of content on the M-Power site from female writers across the world. “It’s really powerful. I think Mecca has such a powerful platform here in Australia that mainly speaks to women, and by giving us access to that platform it allows these stories to get seen by a wider audience,” Saintilan-Stocks said. The overall goal, Keenan said, is for Mecca to be remembered not as a beauty retailer, but as a platform that championed change. “My vision for what M-Power could be is that in another 25 years, when people think about Mecca they don’t think about the company, they think about it as a force for the empowerment and equality of women,” Keenan said.