Françoise-Montenay

PARIS — CEW France keeps getting better with age.

More than three decades after the Paris-based chapter of Cosmetic Executive Women was founded in 1986, it counts 620 members, and has expanded its professional remit and structure.

The organization understood that for CEW France to evolve into a real international network, for women and men, it could not continue to rely as much on volunteers with other day jobs.

“So we decided to hire someone,” said Françoise Montenay, president of CEW France, who serves, as well, as president of the supervisory board of Chanel SAS. She was referring to Laurence Moulin, who has a background in communications and was brought in three and a half years ago to become managing director of CEW France, its second full-time employee.

Moulin studied the organization — which had been largely built on its good works in hospitals — vis-à-vis the U.S. and U.K. CEW chapters, then proposed some working guidelines to CEW France’s board.

“We asked our members what they expected from CEW’s professional network, and they said professionalism in our profession,” said Montenay. “Art, culture, all that is very good as a plus, but what counts most is that you bring us more in the professional domain.”

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Younger executives in France’s beauty sector (there are 80 young entrepreneurs in the CEW chapter today) are also looking for the organization to offer them something professional and concrete to help them quickly flourish in their work. But all this had to be done à la française.

“We said we need to draw the values from our charity work into the professional [sphere],” said Moulin. These include solidarity, sharing, kindness, transparency and conviviality.

Bringing content through sharing CEW France members’ experiences and skills has become key. Today, there is one meeting held per month specifically focused on that.

Moulin noted that the more CEW’s professional element is developed, the more members will be drawn to the association.

Four major events are now organized yearly: Beauty Business, when the industry’s statistics are revealed and analyzed; Beauty Day, a full day centered on beauty’s future and trends; Achiever Awards, which exists in all three CEWs, and during which the French chapter recognizes 12 talents ranging from heads of established groups to start-ups, and a Gala celebrating CEW’s beauty centers.

The seed for those began with a CEW France member, who noted the need for beauty programs for patients at Institut Gustave-Roussy, a leading cancer-research institute and oncology health-care center outside Paris. In 1998, after several beauty centers had been developed in numerous hospitals, the group opted to create a sister association, Les Centres de Beauté de CEW, entirely dedicated to the project.

Beauty centers remain an integral part of CEW France’s activities. In 2017, they conducted 32,500 free aesthetic treatments for hospital patients with 34 socio-aestheticians and a reflexologist. The reflexologist was requested by a hospital in Grasse, France, which is a pilot for CEW France and whose operations are funded by Une Rose, Une Caresse, a program organized by women entrepreneurs.

CEW France runs beauty centers in 32 hospital-related organizations and continues expanding the program. No solicitation is carried out for it; hospitals approach CEW, which considers establishing centers when there’s enough funding in place for at least two years of treatments and a specific area can be allocated to them. The idea, said Montenay, is to maintain a presence and establish a different universe for patients.

“We have a lot of demand,” she said.

CEW France also runs olfactive ateliers with the financial support of International Flavors and Fragrances. These began in 2001 for patients suffering from brain trauma. Often, such people lose memories. But their olfactive center is nestled very deep, and so even after severe accidents, it often remains intact and scent can help them conjure up recollections.

The ateliers have subsequently expanded to include people with cancer and dementia, and adolescents, the latter of whom create their own fragrances.

CEW France’s structure has morphed in other ways, too. Since Moulin’s arrival, its number of board members has doubled to 20; they are organized into four working groups focused on particular subjects.

“We professionalized the teams of volunteers,” added Moulin.

Some upcoming changes include CEW France’s web site being renovated to be more interactive.

In becoming a member of the organization, in which 20 percent are men, a person also joins CEW U.S.’s network. CEW France’s objective is to raise its membership count ultimately to about 800 people.

Montenay said she is most proud that CEW France has not changed an iota of its original mission. “When we created CEW France in 1986, it was to give more sense to our métiers — a serious sense.

“We were pioneers,” she continued. “I say pioneers because we were women…with these new values. Day after day, year after year, we instilled this idea that beauty is not futile, that it helps [people] live better lives.”