The beauty industry targets its products and services primarily to women. It makes sense then that women, who are frequently the customer for beauty brands such as L’Oreal, should have their voices heard when it comes to charting the future direction of the industry. However, this hasn’t always been the case.

For many years there haven’t been enough women coming to the table for technology roles in the beauty industry, said Rachel Weiss, vice president of innovation at L’Oreal USA, in a recent interview with Forbes. There’s a sea change taking place, however, thanks to people like Weiss and companies like L’Oreal.

Determined to make a difference, Weiss created L’Oreal’s Women in Digital program to give a voice to and recognize the women responsible for digital breakthroughs in the beauty industry. Social robots, advanced big data platforms and integrated shopping carts are just a few examples of those breakthroughs. However, women often had to sell their ideas to male venture capitalists, not an ideal scenario, says Weiss.

“There’s sometimes this huge disconnect between the women coming up with technology ideas and the male investors they’re pitching to for funding.”

Finding Tomorrow’s Women Tech Entrepreneurs
L’Oreal’s Women in Digital program is an extension of the company’s Women in Science initiative, and consists of a number of elements, including the Next Generation Awards. This contest features women tech entrepreneurs submitting their ideas to L’Oreal. A strategic committee, which includes Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Cisco Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior, and L’Oreal CEO Jean-Paul Agon, judges the entries and picks three top winners, who are given the opportunity to pilot their technology within L’Oreal.

The winners of this year’s Next Generation Awards were Cynthia Breazeal, founder and CEO of social robotics firm JIBO; Tanya Yuki, founder and CEO of social content analytics company Shareablee; and Victoria Eisner, co-founder and chief creative officer at beauty delivery app business GLAMSQUAD.

“Many of the ideas coming up in technology, originated by women, will utterly transform the beauty industry,” Weiss told Forbes, noting that fields such as computer science, information technology and digital marketing are what’s driving L’Oreal’s beauty innovation.

Weiss believes it’s critical that women in technology find the time to be mentors to up-and-coming girls that are interested in following in their footsteps. “Tell them it’s OK to be geek and chic!” Weiss said.