At the Gansevoort Hotel last night, L’Oreal celebrated the five female winners of their Next Generation Award Tuesday night, honoring female leaders in the technology industry. The event honored Kathryn Minshew (CEO and founder of The Daily Muse), Doreen Bloch (founder and CEO of Poshly.com), Bettina Hein (founder and CEO of Pixibility), Sarah McIlroy* (founder and CEO of FashionPlaytes.com) and Vivian Rosenthal (founder and CEO of GoldRun).
The evening’s host, Tina Fey, confessed to “less than no knowledge” of the tech world. But Ms. Fey’s motivation for attending the ceremony became quickly obvious. “As a mom of two girls I have to say, I’m particularly glad to be out of the house with no one touching me,” she quipped, eliciting distracted giggles from the audience still focused on Instagraming a photo of the surprise guest.
Ms. Fey commended the award recipients for making it to the top of a traditionally male-dominated field, noting that she also struggled with gender imbalance working in sketch comedy. While urging the women to get other females involved in the industry, she warned against not seeing men as competition.
“Don’t get too comfortable being the only woman in the room,” she said. “You’re there to compete with everyone, unless you’re weight lifting.”
Then things really started heating up. “To the five of you honorees tonight … one of you is will be eliminated,” she announced darkly. Unfortunately, she was joking, as comedians occasionally do, and the ceremony proceeded uneventfully with no fight-to-the death matches. (Unless, of course, you count Ms. Minshew almost tripping off the stage after receiving her award. Can we disrupt heels next?)
Ms. Minshew’s brainchild, The Daily Muse, offers career advice and posts job opportunities for professional women, materials that, to her chagrin, were not available during her job search.
“I was frustrated by how little information there was about what different career paths meant and how to succeed in them,” she told Betabeat. “The first time I had to negotiate a salary, for example, I threw up in the toilet afterwards because I was so uncomfortable.”
Though she loved computer science in high school, Ms. Minshew didn’t originally consider a career in technology.
“I would literally write notes to my best brined in C++ about boys that we liked in the 10th grade,” she laughed. “But I think that there is still a really strong perception that computer science means an unwashed teenage guy living in his mom’s basement, and that’s certainly what I thought.”
In a sleek black dress and a fitted red blazer, she looked more like an unwashed teenage boy’s dream girl. Like the other award recipients, Ms. Minshew emphasized, in her attire and in her advice, that the tech world wasn’t all about suspenders and broken glasses.
“I think most people think of technology as kind of geeky, and they don’t think that it can be an amazing platform to express yourself,” Ms. McIlory told Betabeat. Her website, PashionPlaytes.com, allows children to customize clothing templates, choosing the outfit’s colors and adding certain features, such as ruffles, to the garment.
Ms. McIlory is also one of the brave female techies juggling her business and her family–she has two daughters and one son.
“It’s really hard. You try to do 110 percent on both fronts, and the truth is, you are going to miss some things on both sides,” she admitted. We hope Marissa Mayer is taking notes from the glass cliff.
Ms. Rosenthal, founder of GoldRun, predicted that being a female technologist won’t be such a novelty in the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“I think, by nature, technology is a great democratizer. I think more women are going to enter into tech organically because everyone is growing up, both girls and boys, with access to Facebook and Twitter,” Ms. Rosenthal explained. “Because they’re going to be fluent in these different kinds of languages, and I don’t mean necessarily programming, but just in that way of communicating, I think there’s going to be a wealth of opportunities that are going to apply to women and men.”
Update: This post originally misspelled Sarah McIlroy’s last name. Betabeat regrets the error.