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How Virtual Reality Can Help Foster Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

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The National Urban League was founded in 1910 to fight inequality and social injustice. Now, the organization focuses its efforts on fostering diversity, inclusion and equity for employees in the workplace.

So why is the National Urban League interested in virtual reality? Dr. Christopher Metzler, a strategist with the National Urban League, addressed the topic at ITEXPO 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

In his keynote speech, Metzler asserted that employing VR for recruiting and training can help foster diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace.

The National Urban League has 90 affiliates in more than 300 communities, he noted.  Specifically, the organization is interested in establishing:

  • Consistency in sourcing, selecting and hiring
  • Diversity among suppliers
  • Uniform performance reviews
  • Proactive customer service procedures
  • Inclusive personal interviews.

Metzler talked about how properly programmed VR can eliminate biases in both training and recruitment. Standardizing the processes with software helps eliminate unintentional bias, he said.

For instance, VR software doesn’t derive any connotation from a person’s name. Humans have difficulty not associating a name with preconceived notions. If done well, VR software can help reduce both intentional and unintentional biases.

“Not only is it the law, but fostering diversity strengthens the workforce,” he said. “If I’m working with people just like me, there will be no innovation.”

After reinforcing the positive prospects for the technology, Metzler got down to today’s reality. In short, the experience needs to be upgraded; the hardware is too uncomfortable; and the cost is too high, he said.

“Affordability is one of the big issues,” Metzler said. “Lack of content also is probably one of the biggest problems.”

“Headsets we are told are too bulky,” he said. “We cannot underestimate this.”

Currently, outcome and usage metrics are not available. From Metzler’s perspective, massive expectations have been left unfulfilled. Those expectations must come down.

Metzler noted that some people encountered “Zoom fatigue” after so many on-line meetings during the pandemic. “Resistance to virtual meetings may slow down the adoption of VR,” he said.  

Still, Metzler believes these hurdles can be overcome. He thinks VR training and recruiting will become standard procedure at most large enterprises. “It’s not if, but when,” said.

Metzler stressed that the National Urban League doesn’t seek equality of outcomes. They pursue the extension of equality of opportunity to everyone.

“Is everyone involved in the conversation?” he asked. “That’s what we’re really talking about.”




Edited by Erik Linask

Future of Work Contributor

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