How Virtual Reality is Tackling Racism in the Workplace
If you were at work and one of your colleagues made a racist remark, would you challenge it or let it pass?
This scenario is one of the many that US startup Vantage Point provides in its training program to tackle racial discrimination in the workplace.
Founded in Los Angeles in 2017, the company offers courses on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias. Using virtual reality (VR) headsets, employees are immersed in scenarios based on real events, where they watch a scene of discrimination unfold and are asked how they would respond.
Morgan Mercer, the company’s founder, is a biracial woman who has been subjected to both racism and sexism in the workplace. She wants people who haven’t had these experiences to understand how it feels, and she believes VR technology is invaluable in getting the message across.
“I realized how effective it is in truly putting you in a person’s shoes,” she tells CNN Business. “Giving you a first person experience of what it’s like for somebody to flinch every time you walk by them, or what it’s like for somebody to yell words at you on the street, or what it’s like for somebody to stand a little bit too close.”
Morgan Mercer founded Vantage Point in 2017.
On average, nearly a third of adults surveyed in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany have experienced or witnessed racism in the workplace, according to research from job and recruitment website Glassdoor. That kind of environment can make it harder to retain staff from ethnic minorities.
What’s more, diversity is good for the bottom line. According to a 2020 McKinsey report, companies with a more diverse workforce are likely to be more successful. Surveying 1,000 companies in 15 countries, it found businesses in the top quartile for ethnic diversity were 36% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. Companies with more than 30% women executives tended to outperform those with fewer.
Image: Employees are taught how to deal with unconscious bias through a 360-degree virtual reality experience.