Last weekâ€™s lawsuit against UploadVR is a reminder to the emerging virtual reality industry that it needs to pay more attention to being more inclusive and welcoming to women.
This is an issue endemic to the entire tech industry, but is particularly critical in VR because this sector is in its infancy.
â€œWomen are losing out on funding, jobs, and opportunities to make an impact,â€ said Maria Korolov, president of Women in Virtual Reality and editor of Hypergrid Business. â€œMeanwhile, VR companies lose their insights, perspectives, and unique talents. With a tech talent shortage and competition from other countries, the U.S. virtual reality sector cannot afford to waste this resource.â€
â€œInnovation and business success have been shown again and again to benefit from diverse leadership,â€ said Jeanine Cowen, VP forÂ curriculum and program innovation at theÂ Berklee College of Music. â€œIncidents like these should be seen as a reminder to investors and companies alike that having women in key roles is a significant factor that leads to a healthy and productive work culture. As the VR space continues to take shape, we all must be diligent in providing ample opportunities for women and diverse voices as we work to build a cultural norm of respect for all people in this important new media.â€
There are more women working in virtual reality than in some areas of technology, and there are both men and women working to address gender issues, saidÂ Stephanie Llamas, VP of research and strategy at SuperData Research.
â€œHowever, there still exist echo chambers in many companies where there is no advocacy for diversity,â€ she said. â€œIf this does persist, this could end up hurting VR adoption and consumption. If we want to expand the VR audience, content creators will need to use different content to target different demographics. Itâ€™s difficult to do that if companies do not promote and consider different internal points of view.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t know the full facts of this case yet, but if any company is found to condone this sort of behavior there should be serious consequences,â€ saidÂ Wendy Powell, a virtual reality researcher at theÂ University of Portsmouth. â€œThis type of behavior is damaging to the entire industry, and stories like this should be a wake-up call to all companies to examine their own practices.â€
Some in the tech industry dismiss the problem of sexual harassment because they havenâ€™t personally experienced or witnessed it, but that is a mistake, said Helen Situ,Â founderÂ and editorÂ of Virtual Reality Pop, who recently wrote a column about the issue.
â€œWe say â€˜theyâ€™re only doing this for the moneyâ€™ or â€˜this hasnâ€™t happened to me so it canâ€™t be true,’â€ she said. â€œThat is insane.â€
Women who experience harassment or discrimination should document the events, and file complaints with theÂ U.S. Equal EmploymentÂ Opportunity Commission, said Donna Waters, owner ofÂ Proof of Concept Optical Engineering.
â€œItâ€™s easy to laugh off misogyny at first, but donâ€™t,â€ she said. â€œIt is not harmless and it will kill your career.â€
The EEOC provides guidance for employers as well, through a network of small business liaisons, she added.
About Women in Virtual Reality
Women in Virtual Reality was founded 2014 as a networking and advocacy organization with a mission of increasing the visibility of women in virtual reality and attracting more women to the field. Website:Â http://www.wivr.net