Mixed reality has revolutionized the way that we interact, and its impact reaches beyond the tech industry to business, entertainment, healthcare, and more. Unfortunately, the tech industry is known for its hostility toward women. There is a growing interest in using immersive technologies like mixed reality to foster social change; one essential question asks if we can realize the potential of mixed reality to help working women. Our answer: yes. Mixed reality applications can be tools that help to combat workplace sexism and empower working women.
Support and Mentoring
One way to help women thrive at work is to implement strategic support systems of peers and mentors. Male-dominated industries like technology and advertising can create isolating, belittling environments for women, so it is important that they have the opportunity to communicate and connect with other women in networks that help them grow. The application Lioness, created by Ogilvy, in partnership with Google and UN Women, does exactly that. Noticing a lack of female representation within the advertising industry, the app created a platform where women can share and learn from each other’s experiences. Using a mix of augmented and virtual reality portals, Lioness generates virtual workplace field trips for students who otherwise would not have access to female leaders.
Other companies have taken a different approach with mixed reality applications. Ceresa offers structured programs with virtual mentorship meetings to help build more lasting mentoring relationships. The Female Planet, a YouTube VR series, allows women to step into the professional worlds of successful female leaders. The series enables viewers to shadow and learn from global female leaders by tracking the journeys and experiences of five women from the tech and entertainment sectors. In these examples, virtual worlds help to build a more empowering reality and offer women the support and tools that they need to succeed.
Sexual Harassment Training and Monitoring
Virtual reality can also be used to train coworkers and monitor offices to safeguard against sexual harassment and abuse by creating immersive experiences that engage trainees and put the material into a real-life context. The programs transport trainees to safe environments where they learn how to identify and report sexual assault, allowing them to practice the best ways to respond if they find themselves in similar situations. Furthermore, when used in conjunction with exposure-based therapy, these immersive tools show promise of treating post-traumatic stress disorder that often results from sexual assault. As part of a focus group or employee wellness package, mixed reality programs can foster a more emotionally intelligent working environment.
Mixed reality is still a relatively recent development, and as such, we are still looking into its potential applications. It won’t be able to solve every problem rooted in sexism, but to start, it introduces people to new perspectives that help them better understand the discrimination that working women experience. Big changes still need to take place in society in order for us to truly improve, but with its unique ability to foster empathy, mixed reality can help us to reach that point.