Hello, Broadsheet readers! Today’s guest essay comes from Fortune writer Lila MacLellan, who examines whether the Metaverse will be an inclusive workspace. More: Good Morning America pulls co-hosts Amy Robach and TJ Holmes from the air and five women are suing Bill Cosby under New York’s new sexual abuse law. Have a good Wednesday.
– A meta question. Well, it might be embarrassing, but I have to admit I’m intrigued by the Metaverse, a topic that makes most adults’ eyes roll.
During the pandemic, I bought an Oculus headset, determined to keep up with the next evolution in technology and thinking it might help me “travel”. It made. Mostly I floated inside immersive art exhibits, but I also enjoyed a dizzying trip to the space station and a few city tours.
As a journalist, I’ve also been following workplace developments in the metaverse, a topic I covered for Fortune@Work, a just-released workplace playbook about how companies should manage the return to the office. Like my Fortune colleagues explain in this series, today’s employees want to work remotely and see their work friends. That’s why Dropbox, after walking away completely, found that offering in-person retreats helped boost its lackluster retention rates. The Metaverse is meant to be an even more convenient compromise, allowing people to feel the presence of others without sneaking into the office.
Metaverse technology is still nascent, but after sampling today’s VR meeting spaces, I’m willing to accept that one day, when headsets become lighter and VR software easier to navigate, we’ll be thinking in an immersive or mixed reality about as often as we do in Zoom today. But this impending shift means now is the time for companies building their metaverse offices to take inclusion seriously.
On the one hand, the metaverse promises to improve diversity and inclusion in several ways. VR and AR applications could allow employees who are home caregivers (mostly women) to be as “present” in the office as those who work at a company’s physical headquarters. For the same reason, the use of virtual reality could help break down proximity bias and level the playing field for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups.
However, I’m less convinced by the argument that tomorrow’s VR native employees could take on new identities at work – creating avatars that look like animals or imaginary characters – and that this could minimize the sexism or racism at work.
Today, women who play virtual multiplayer games face bias or harassment even when they don’t present themselves as a woman on screen, says Phoebe Gavin, career coach, executive director of talent development at Vox and player. Players have a way of figuring out who’s who, she says, adding, “Do you think people aren’t going to find out that the lizard in the office is actually a black woman?”
Let’s not forget who is building the metaverse, she adds. Black, Latino, and other marginalized groups are underrepresented in tech, which means metaverse spaces are already not designed for them.
Finally, a recent study by McKinsey found that leadership roles in today’s metaverse are dominated by men, despite evidence that women spend more time in the “protometaverse” than men and are more likely to support metaverse projects.
The virtual workplace is several years away, but companies should discuss these red flags now, lest we end up with a future of work that looks a lot like the past.
Read my full Metaverse at Work story here and check out the full Fortune@Work manual here.
The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Paige McGlauflin. Subscribe here.
– Elections in Georgia. Senator Raphael Warnock is the projected winner of Georgia’s senatorial runoff on Tuesday. Warnock beat Herschel Walker, a Trump-endorsed Republican and anti-abortionist whose campaign has been marred by scandals, including two ex-girlfriends alleging he paid for their abortions. New York Times
– Hidden Truths. Nearly half of all pregnant women undergo noninvasive prenatal screenings. But the tests aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and ambiguity over the accuracy of the tests has left patients feeling misled and heartbroken. ProPublica
– Safety blind spots. Two women are suing Apple, alleging their exes used the tech giant’s AirTag devices to track their whereabouts. Apple did not respond to CNN request for comment, but earlier this year the company announced more safeguards to reduce unwanted tracking. CNN
– Off air. hello america co-hosts Amy Robach and TJ Holmes have been temporarily taken off the air while ABC News and network president Amy Godwin decide on a course of action. A relationship between the two co-hosts, who are married to other people, was first reported Last week. Washington Post
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Lux Capital promoted Deena Shakir to the general partner and Grace Isford associate. Kate Muzzatti joins Maven Clinic as Director of Human Resources. Osso VR engaged Frederick Station as Chief Technology Officer and Heather Gervais as Chief Revenue Officer. angela song joined KiwiCo as Marketing Director.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
– Strict prohibition. Indonesian lawmakers on Tuesday banned extramarital sex and cohabitation for unmarried couples. The new penal code applies to foreign residents and tourists and is punishable by imprisonment. CNN
– Cosby Trial. Five women filed a lawsuit against Bill Cosby in New York on Monday, using the state’s new law allowing adult victims of sexual abuse to sue their abusers despite the statute of limitations. A lawyer for Cosby called the lawsuit “frivolous” and denied the allegations, which date back decades. CNN
– Shuttered doors. Abortion clinic closures doubled year-on-year in 2022, following the reversal of deer v. Wade. Forty-two independent clinics, mostly located in the South and Midwest, closed in November, down from 20 last year. Bloomberg
ON MY RADAR
Women share PCOS and fertility struggles after Keke Palmer pregnancy announcement Charm
Quinta Brunson missed the silent dropout memo Cosmopolitan
Deb Perelman could do this forever Romper
As the world focuses on football, a women’s team in exile wants to play New York Times
“When you have an opportunity like this, you have to put your heart and soul into it, because you don’t know when the next chance will be. I think that’s my biggest fear: please don’t don’t let that be the one and only.
—Michelle Yeoh on her critically acclaimed lead role performance in Everything everywhere all at once.
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