What better way to teach someone about the issues of racism or sexism in the workplace other than putting them in the shoes of a person experiencing such forms of discrimination?
Well, that’s exactly what US startup Vantage Point does with its training programs that use virtual reality (VR) headsets to tackle racial discrimination at work.
Founded in Los Angeles in 2017, the company offers courses on diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias, with the help of VR technology. 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 explains. “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.”
Such training programs can be incredibly useful for a company’s wellbeing since, according to research, nearly a third of adults surveyed in the US, UK, France, and Germany have experienced or witnessed racial prejudice at their place of work. That kind of environment can give rise to issues of diversity within companies, which can significantly affect how successful they are.
In fact, a 2020 McKinsey report found that businesses scoring high on ethnic diversity were 36 percent more profitable than those in the bottom quartile, while companies with more than 30 percent women executives tended to outperform those with fewer.