To address the underrepresentation of women in technological fields, L’Oréal USA has launched a new platform, Women in Digital, which supports female digital entrepreneurs who have created innovative online companies.
As part of this initiative, five winners were honored July 17 at the Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel in New York during the company’s first Next Generation Awards, which featured special guest Tina Fey.
“L’Oréal is very excited about the intersection of beauty and technology,” said Marc Speichert, L’Oréal’s chief marketing officer. “This program allows us to redefine how we think of our business model.”
Each winner was chosen for her potential to change the landscape of digital interaction.
“There are so many women with amazing ideas and few women are reaching leadership positions,” said Rachel Weiss, vice president of digital strategy and innovation for L’Oréal USA, who added that even at L’Oréal there is a gap of women in IT positions. “L’Oréal is not immune.”
Weiss said each of the new technologies — each of which was created by women for women — could potentially be utilized by L’Oréal for future projects.
“Women are better equipped to create a better experience for women,” said Speichert. “Men buy and women shop. It’s about re-creating shopping and browsing and how it translates online.”
This year’s honorees were Doreen Bloch, founder and chief executive officer of poshly.com; Bettina Hein, founder and ceo of Pixability; Sarah McIlroy, founder and ceo of fashionplaytes.com; Kathryn Minshew, founder of The Daily Muse, and Vivian Rosenthal, founder and ceo of GoldRun. An advisory board, featuring L’Oréal USA executives, venture capital partners and the L’Oréal USA Women in Digital Board of Advisors — made up of female business leaders like Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, and Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook — selected the winners.
“We see that women are dropping out of careers in science and technology fields,” said Weiss. “We want women to know they can be beautiful, be themselves and have a career in digital and still be chic and cool.”
Honorees will be given the opportunity to meet with venture capital firms, L’Oréal USA executives and partners. They will also be invited to attend all L’Oréal Women in Digital meet-ups in local markets and be mentored internally and through the advisory board.
Weiss said the awards ceremony was only the first step in a much larger digital initiative.
“Next year it will be bigger and better,” she said. “The point is to start relationships.
Added Speichert, “It is a win-win — a combination of creative and technology and new ways of thinking.”
For her part, Bloch was awarded for creating “personalized technology for the beauty industry” that matches users’ beauty needs with brand giveaways and other initiatives. The site offers participants a number of detailed surveys (of which the responses are used to connect them to companies) for “targeted sampling.”
“The holy grail is how do you find the right people for my product,” she said. “This is a data-driven approach.”
Meanwhile, Rosenthal, founder and ceo of an augmented reality mobile platform called GoldRun, is focused on bridging the physical and the digital. Her company facilitates the creation of “virtual photo booths” or “hot spots” in physical places anywhere in the world.
“The virtual hot zone could be every living room across America or in a particular location,” she said. In these designated areas, Rosenthal’s firm can place virtual items like products and people. Participants then download the picture of themselves with the virtual object and share their branded photos on social networks for discounts, coupons, prizes and other rewards. “Two-hundred and fifty million photos are uploaded to Facebook each day,” she said. “Why can’t a percentage can be branded and [shared] with the masses?”
Rosenthal added that her business model is focused on providing personalized, authentic interaction between brands and shoppers. “You are turning the consumer into a brand advocate,” she said.
Minshew’s site, The Daily Muse, is all about streamlining the job search for job seekers and employers seeking Millennials. Her site, which is free, showcases job-search-oriented material like video interviews of employees at various companies and advice on negotiating raises or managing promotions. It also has a listing of job openings and photo tours of different offices from Pinterest to Armani.
“[The Daily Muse] offers an inside view into roles and positions that our users are interested in,” she said.
With more than a million users in the past nine months — 40 percent of whom have advanced degrees — it is clear Minshew hit a nerve. “This is a clear sign that there was a need for this.”