MECCA MUSE

7 trailblazing women on the advice they’d give their younger selves

In the same way that we strive to illuminate how you look and feel with glow-inducing serums, creams, and highlighters, it’s our mission—through M-POWER—to illuminate, elevate, and empower the women in our community challenging bias, achieving industry breakthroughs, and forging a gender equal world (and those with the potential to do the same).

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8—with this year’s theme being ‘Women in Leadership’—we spoke to seven remarkable women leading the way in their fields, ready to glean even a smidge of their wisdom, tenacity, and prowess.

Meet beloved comedian and presenter Gen Fricker, leading infectious diseases expert Professor Sharon Lewin, screenwriter Mithila Gupta (Neighbours, Bump, Winners and Losers), Lune Croissanterie founder and pastry queen Kate Reid, Indigital founder and CEO Mikaela Jade, #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J Maas (Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses), and Floral Street founder and fragrance pioneer Michelle Feeney.

GEN FRICKER, COMEDIAN

Advice for her younger self…
“Advocate for yourself as much as possible! It's hard to speak up when you're young, but I've never regretted setting boundaries in work and in real life. If people can't respect your boundaries, then they don't respect you.

Other than that, my general attitude is that no matter what you're doing, you have to be open to details and questions that pop up internally—the real work is figuring out how to externalise that.”

In the spirit of IWD, Fricker illuminates Humyara Mahbub and Naomi Higgins
“They’ve made a brilliant new show for the ABC called Why Are You Like This?. Knowing them, and what it took to get that show made is so inspiring, and I think it's a really authentic story about women, especially women of colour, that hasn't really been told before. Also it's actually funny, which is a relief because it's always awkward when your friends make something bad and you have to pretend it's good.”

To see Fricker live on tour, head here.

PROFESSOR SHARON LEWIN, LEADING INFECTIOUS DISEASES EXPERT

On achieving (and taking time to do so)…
“My greatest achievement has been to have the opportunity to lead a fantastic and complex organisation such as the Doherty Institute in a time of great need, pressure, and uncertainty. I am incredibly proud of all that we have achieved as an institute and as a country in our response to COVID-19.

We all have 40 to 50 years in our working lives, and plenty of time to achieve. Having an impact through your work is incredibly important; but always look after your family, your friends and your colleagues along the way.”

In the spirit of IWD, Professor Lewin illuminates the trailblazers in her field
“Science and medicine are still pretty tough careers for women, especially in leadership roles. We have many senior women leaders in the Institute who have each led different aspects of the response to COVID-19 and who are each experts in a range of infectious diseases; Kanta Subbarao, Deb Williamson, Jodie McVernon, and Katherine Kadzierska to name a few. Our executive officer, Andrea Fischer and head of communications, Rebecca Elliott have ensured the organisation has thrived over 2020. Of our PhD students, more than half are women and all rising stars! My role model for my career has been Francoise Barre Sinoussi, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008 for the discovery of HIV. She is brilliant, compassionate, modest, and inspiring.”

MITHILA GUPTA, SCREENWRITER

On achieving her dreams…
“Screenwriting has always been my dream, but I didn't believe I could do it. It's been ten years and I feel elated and sometimes still a little bit bewildered that this is my reality. Last year I got the opportunity to travel to Mumbai to run a writer's room on a TV series I've created. I was born in India and grew up watching Indian content, so working in Mumbai on something of my own was a huge milestone. It's like the immigrant dream in reverse; going back home to tell stories for the world and all the people out there who have grown up in a place that's not their own.”

In the spirit of IWD, Gupta illuminates her fellow WOC screenwriters
“I am endlessly in awe of and grateful for the cohort of fellow WOC screenwriters around me. These are the women who go into several TV writer's rooms, often as the only minority and fight to tell authentic stories from perspectives we don't often get to see. Kodie Bedford, Niki Aken, Michelle Law… I am blown away by their talent, resilience and above all their work ethic.”

KATE REID, FOUNDER OF LUNE CROISSANTERIE

On becoming the person she is today…
“I am incredibly proud that I worked in Formula One, which had been a lifetime goal, and fuelled my motivation through high school and university. Leaving that behind, and starting completely from scratch in a vastly different industry, with the goal to make the best croissant I possibly could—and that leading to the success story that is Lune—wouldn’t have happened had I not had my previous life and career as an engineer. Perhaps recovering from anorexia, and subsequently building a life so incredibly fulfilling, may be my greatest achievement.”

In the spirit of IWD, Reid illuminates Jo Barret
“Jo Barrett is really blazing a trail through very unchartered territory, not just for a woman in the food and wine industry, but in general. She is one of the most talented, but also hard-working people I know. She is an incredible chef, a master of bread, pastry, cheese, and is now turning her efforts to minimising food waste and understanding produce from a foundational level. Inspirational. And just the most genuinely lovely, down to earth woman.”

Kate Reid headlines the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival's newest feast, the Bank of Melbourne World's Longest Brunch on March 13. Tickets available now.

MIKAELA JADE, FOUNDER AND CEO OF INDIGITAL

On staying motivated…
“Every day I am motivated by my obligation as a Cabrogal woman to progress my culture, and to share my culture with future generations. What drives me to continue the work we do is when I see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples get the bug for technology. It’s that excitement that keeps me going, and working towards ensuring all First Nations peoples, wherever they are located, have access to these technologies, and the skills to use it to benefit them and their community.”

In the spirit of IWD, Jade illuminates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women making their mark
“I work with a group of incredible women who support and inspire me every day. I am also excited and inspired by the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are stepping up and making their mark in their respective fields. They are rethinking the way we work and showing the world the strength and intelligence of Indigenous knowledge systems in helping solve the biggest challenges of our time. One of the many amazing young women I follow is Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker, a First Nations technologist & activist.”

SARAH J MAAS, #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

Advice for her younger self…
“In the past year, I started seeing a therapist and taking medication for severe anxiety, which has prompted a lot of reflection, especially on the stuff I quietly dealt with while growing up. So I think if I were to give any advice to younger me, it would be that you don't need to hide the way you're suffering, and that it's okay to ask for help when you need it.”

In the spirit of IWD, Maas illuminates Amanda Gorman
“She's brilliant, bold, and literally luminous. Every time I watch her, I'm absolutely spellbound and in awe of her talent and poise. I can't wait to see what incredible things she does next."

Sarah J. Maas' highly anticipated new release, A Court of Silver Flames, is available now.

MICHELLE FEENEY, FOUNDER OF FLORAL STREET

On ‘starting-up’ later in life…
“I stepped out of corporate life, taking a risk on creating an independent sustainable fine fragrance brand that challenged the industry. In only 3 years, our all-female team and I are experiencing explosive global growth. Not bad for a 53-year-old with a ‘start up’! I’ve achieved this by pouring my 30 years of experience into a bottle. All with passion, gusto and bravery.”

In the spirit of IWD, Michelle illuminates her daughter
“My daughter inspires me! Sounds corny but seeing her as this confident, inquisitive, action orientated 16-year-old self makes me believe in the future.

Through M-Power, MECCA aims to help 10,000 girls finish secondary school by the year 2025, and we will achieve this through our work locally in Victoria with The Skyline Education Foundation, nationally with Stars Foundation and internationally with CAMFED.