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Capgemini IT: GROWTH ACCELERATOR

IT trends spotted and checked by experts

VP of innovation at L’Oréal

Rachel Weiss is VP, digital innovation, content and new business ventures at L'Oréal USA, where she's responsible for creating a digital marketing and innovation strategy focused on mobile, social, content...

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Women fuelling innovation at L'Oréal


Initially published on 1 Dec, 2014 10:06 am

As the world's largest beauty company, L'Oréal has the opportunity and resources to empower women, its core consumers, to pursue careers in science, technology, computer science, and digital marketing. These are the fields that drive L'Oréal's beauty innovation, from the invention of new molecules to the marketing of new products.


The company was founded by a scientist and for more than 100 years, scientific innovation has continued to be at the core of L'Oréal's business strategy. The company relies on the contributions women make in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields every day, with women making up 70 per cent of L'Oréal's 4,000-strong scientific workforce.

Because of our belief that women need science and science needs women, the L'Oréal Foundation created a programme, For Women in Science, which recognizes and rewards women scientists around the world at critical stages of their career. The programme has been extremely successful, helping more than 2,000 scientists in over 100 countries since the global programme began in 1998.

Women in Digital

Inspired by this initiative, I set out to create L'Oréal's Women In Digital programme in the US, aimed at simultaneously supporting women who are underrepresented in technology fields and keeping our business at the cutting edge. The Women in Digital programme identifies female entrepreneurs and provides them with the opportunity to launch and scale their digital innovations with L'Oréal brands and impact the future of the beauty industry. As a way to provide mentorship and act as a springboard for these young companies to grow, L'Oréal also connects these entrepreneurs with its advisory board, network of venture capitalists and other top executives.

Motivation

When we were exploring the idea of the programme, it was clear that there were not enough women coming to the table in the digital marketing or technology arenas, nor were there enough women at conferences and events, and certainly not enough sticking with technology studies at school in order to go on and become IT experts. We asked ourselves if our industry was marginalizing women the way Hollywood often has, even though women form the majority of our customer base.

Our worries around female entrepreneurs in technology were also confirmed with facts. We noticed that only a fraction of venture capitalists were women, and therefore there was often a huge disconnect between female entrepreneurs and the male investors they were pitching for funding.

Further, women only make up 24 per cent of STEM workers in the US, only 14 per cent of the country's engineers and 27 per cent of computer science professionals. Without appropriate female representation, the potential STEM innovations of tomorrow will be missing a large part of the talent in our world.

Changing the conversation

We are now in the third year of our Women In Digital programme, which is part of L'Oréal USA's NEXT Fund, a pool of money set aside for corporate grants for technology entrepreneurs. Our aim is to change the conversation around women in technology and really support their success.

One of the most high profile elements of our programme is the Next Generation Awards, where we award the most innovative female technology entrepreneurs. We have a set of criteria that are most important for our business, and the women pitching the ideas are assessed by our advisory board made up of female leaders in tech including Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and Cisco chief technology officer Padmasree Warrior. The top three awarded companies have the chance to pilot their ideas at L'Oréal USA.

A beautiful industry

The Women in Digital entrepreneurs have truly brought us game-changing technology over the years. In our first year of the awards, among the winners we chose Bettina Hein of Pixability, a specialized video marketing business with a fantastic big data platform. In the last three years, her platform successfully expanded and is now a highly scalable partner we can work with. In our second year, one of our winners was Heather Marie of Shoppable.com, formerly 72Lux, which links multiple shopping carts together in a universal checkout and is perfect for our audience.

It is stunning how advanced the technology discussion is becoming, and how women are developing and sharing some of the most groundbreaking ideas. This year, one of our selections was Cynthia Breazeal of Jibo, a company that develops 'social robots' with personality, for the home. At our recent internal Inspiration Day, focused on innovation, there was extensive discussion around robotics, as well as 3D printing, self-driving cars and other innovative systems, and the impact they can have on our industry's future.
 
Foundation for success

While this is a US programme, our ambition is to expand Women in Digital globally. It still feels like a start-up compared to our big vision, and we'll continue to think about how we can best incubate all of these fantastic new ideas, and how we can change the discussion around women in technology. The programme supports amazing, inspiring women in the field, which is vital to our own future innovation and success.

(Top photo: from left to right: Tania Yuki - Founder & CEO, Shareablee, Dr. Cynthia Breazeal - Founder & CEO, Jibo and Victoria Eisner - Chief Creative Officer & Co-Founder, GLAMSQUAD, this year's winners of the L'Oreal Next Generation Award - all of whom can now pilot their ideas at L'Oréal USA)

Innovators Race

As Capgemini turns 50, we give early stage start-ups the opportunity to jump-start their business and win equity-free funding of $50,000.

For more information: www.innovatorsrace50.com

Innovators Race

As Capgemini turns 50, we give early stage start-ups the opportunity to jump-start their business and win equity-free funding of $50,000.

For more information: www.innovatorsrace50.com

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