Tara Pyle

Senior Vice President, skinbetter science brand integration, L’Oréal

What leaders most need to recognize is that hiring diverse teams is only half the job. The other half is empowering people to use their backgrounds and experiences to serve the customer well.

By Ashley Rabinovitch 

Tara Pyle T’12 didn’t know much about the beauty industry when she joined L’Oréal’s MBA Management Development Program back in 2012. More than 10 years and half a dozen promotions later, she is familiar with every shade and contour of the iconic company’s hair, skin, and nail brands.

“I have long been fascinated by the universal quest for beauty,” says Pyle. “It transcends every culture and region, but its applications are local.” 

Pyle has always had a keen sense of aesthetics. When she is not spending time with her husband and two young children, she is feeding her passion for fashion, film, and visual arts. 

After earning a degree in art history from Vassar College, she launched her career at New York’s Center for Architecture, where she created a marketing program to sell exhibit space more effectively. The experience planted a seed of interest in leading brand management within a larger company. At the same time, it highlighted gaps in her education. Having never taken a business or math class as an undergraduate student, Pyle arrived in Hanover with a steep mountain to climb. “There was nothing easy about the experience, but I quickly discovered the power of the study group,” she remembers. “And once I got through it, I emerged with far more confidence.” 

One of the highlights of her MBA experience was a Tuck global immersion course to Eastern Europe, where she was part of a team that helped a distributor of luxury watches and jewelry brands devise strategies to break into new consumer markets. She didn’t realize just how relevant the experience would be until she began to tackle similar work for L’Oréal as a management trainee. 

Over the next decade, Pyle mastered the art of driving brand positioning and product innovation efforts in a fast-moving, trend-driven industry. After several years of building her expertise in the hair coloring and styling category for L’Oréal’s U.S.-based team, she rose to become the head of global marketing and international business development for essie, one of the world’s most successful nail care brands. Then, in 2020, she made her first foray into skincare as the brand head of one of the company’s dermatological cosmetics brands.

Pyle has always subscribed wholeheartedly to the company mantra, “We strive to be as diverse as the people we serve.” But her work in dermatological beauty reinforced the necessity of building inclusive products like never before. Beauty brands have historically offered few appealing options for people with skin conditions like acne and pigmentary disorders—especially not people of color, who experience certain pigmentary disorders in higher numbers. 

From scheduling Instagram live sessions with dermatologists to supporting microinfluencers who felt seen and acknowledged by new product lines, Pyle and her team members put their “blood, sweat, and tears into engaging this underserved community with empathy,” she says. 

In Pyle’s experience, building a diverse, inclusive brand hinges on prioritizing these values in the workplace. While driving brand strategy for in the dermatological division, she also served as the division’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) leader.

For a full year, she worked to educate and build the confidence of employees in her division while also training company leaders to listen more carefully. “Discussing topics of equity in the workplace is always going to be a challenge, and leaders start with various levels of comfort,” she says. “What leaders most need to recognize is that hiring diverse teams is only half the job. The other half is empowering people to use their backgrounds and experiences to serve the customer well.” 

From a business perspective, diverse teams achieve higher levels of profit and innovation. This is especially true in marketing, where diverse perspectives are essential for building products and campaigns that resonate with specific segments of the population. In the dermatological beauty model, it is tremendously valuable to incorporate the perspectives of marketing team members who have experienced skin conditions and can empathize with their target audience. 

In late 2022, Pyle took on the responsibility of integrating skinbetter science, a recently acquired medical skincare brand, into the L’Oréal Group. Incorporating dozens of perspectives into her decision-making process presents a constant challenge, but it is one that Pyle has come to embrace. “Products that are ‘just okay’ never make customers come back a second time,” she says. “By unleashing team members to identify and fill unmet needs, we can create experiences that truly delight our customers. There is nothing more rewarding.”

This story originally appeared in print in the summer 2023 issue of Tuck Today magazine. 

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