Opportunities and Challenges for Women in the Metaverse
Immersive technologies like extended reality (XR) technology, including augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR), offer consumers a three-dimensional experience of being physically present in a digital world. When combined, they help form the ‘metaverse,’ a digital realm where users can progressively connect, learn, and earn.
The emergence of the metaverse, which has its origins in gaming, has produced a new, digital environment that has evolved fast in recent years. Roblox, a virtual game platform, had more than 43 million daily users in 2021. Meta and other social media platforms are building new platforms to hold virtual events. And digital products, particularly non-fungible tokens (NFTs), continue to flourish.
While the metaverse is great for products to get a great deal of authentic attention; however, a consequence of this is that personal abuse also feels genuine, especially to women in the metaverse. In this article, let’s explore what opportunities lie for women in the metaverse and if the virtual world powered by technologies like XR and VR poses any challenges for women?
Women as participants in the Metaverse: Opportunities vs. Challenges
A demographically homogeneous tech business will not lead to the brave new future we’re looking for, from unrealistic female body standards for video game characters to racially prejudiced recruitment using AI tools. As a result, girls are made to feel undesired in the industry like gaming from an early age, both professionally and as customers, due to a shortage of visible female role models and residual preconceptions about women and technology. Words like ‘game,’ ‘gaming’ are usually linked to males and neglect females’ participation. For instance, according to Statista’s game developer survey in 2021, men accounted for 61% of respondents, while women accounted for 30%.
However, the metaverse world is recognizing women as participants in the virtual world since anyone can play games like The Sandbox, Decentraland, Axie Infinity. You just need a PC or mobile device, an internet connection, a VR headset, and a blockchain wallet. Therefore, the question of gender vanishes here. Another example of supporting women in games is the “Women in Games Ambassador program,” a global initiative that helps women and girls better understand the gaming industry to double the number of women in gaming.
However, women are not even safe in the virtual world because of anonymity and the difficulty of enforcing rules on the participants. For instance, women have complained about being “groped” and even “raped” by male avatars while others stand by and do nothing. One described the “intensity” of the encounter, claiming to have suffered from anxiety ever since the incident. Additionally, a 43-year-old British woman claims that she was grabbed and gang-raped by a group of male avatars in the virtual world. Nina quickly signed out of the virtual metaverse due to these events to end the horror led by Horizon Venues of Meta. On the other hand, tracking abusive behaviour in digital environments is already a challenge because incidents are not recorded and generally occur in real-time. As a result, Zuckerberg, who appears to be conscious of concerns about the metaverse’s potential dangers for women, has pledged to construct it with privacy and security in mind. Moreover, these aren’t reasons for brands to avoid the metaverse but rather consider how they present themselves. This can be incorporated into constructing an avatar or virtual environment, and they should be prepared to answer questions about their choices in terms of appearance. And don’t think of the metaverse as a ‘game,’ but rather as a space where millions will express themselves.
Women as investors and entrepreneurs in the Metaverse: Opportunities vs. Challenges
Metaverse provides all women with the opportunity to be evaluated entirely based on their talent and hard work. Furthermore, metaverse allows users to work from the comfort of their own homes, eliminating the requirement for them to be physically present. New moms are faced with a difficult decision when it comes to finding a new job or even returning to an old one, which is already burdened by the guilt of leaving their child at home. This virtual workplace will be a far cry from the mundane zoom call meetings; it will provide a better digital version of communication and a sense of being physically present in a way that is more akin to the offline workplace.
BFF, a group dedicated to teaching women how to participate in the cryptocurrency boom, is one of the most visible efforts of encouraging women investors. In February 2022, the group had 4,000 subscribers after only one month of launch. Brit Morin, the founder of the women’s media company Brit + Co and former Googler, leads BFF. Another organization, the Black Women Blockchain Council, was founded in 2018 to bring more black women into the crypto space. NFT also has collections for women, such as WomenRise, Boss Beauties, and Crypto Coven. Some are selling art, but Crypto Coven is selling avatars for the metaverse, a persistent VR/AR experience that might be built on top of Web3. Additionally, women content makers are increasingly receiving funding to launch their metaverse projects. For instance, Randi Zuckerberg founded Big Hug, a startup accelerator that aims to support and mentor female founders. Curious Addys, founded by Mai Akiyoshi, is an interactive educational experience that allows individuals unfamiliar with the space to learn about it through a series of activities. Addy, an endearing Octopus, guides customers through the process of creating a crypto wallet, minting an NFT, and more.
However, according to ArtTactic, a market research organization, just 16% of NFT purchases went to female artists in November 2021. Furthermore, the CEOs of the largest metaverse platforms to date — Fortnite, Sandbox, Roblox, Decentraland, and Meta — are all white men, with at least two of those firms having a female COO. Therefore, there is a lack of equitable acceptance in the metaverse companies to accept women in the leading roles like CEOs. The HR directors in such firms should focus on workplace gender diversity policies as it promotes productivity, performance, creativity, and employee retention and boosts collaboration throughout the company.
Metaverse is opening opportunities for all, including women entrepreneurs, investors, and gamers. However, rather than architects of the underlying technology, much of the current effort to lure women into futuristic internet platforms is focused on content creators. As Web3 is free and open to anyone who wants to build in it, more efforts should be taken to allow women to participate and invest in the metaverse safely. These numerous initiatives to entice women to the virtual platforms ensure that they have the same chance to profit as males. It’s becoming evident that technological prowess will be less significant in the future version of the internet world than the ability to garner women devotees. Hence, efforts should be made to ensure that virtual worlds are safe for women.