Will the metaverse be an inclusive workspace?

December 7, 2022, 1:05 PM UTC
Companies are figuring out how to make virtual workspaces inclusive.
Courtesy of META

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Today’s guest essay comes from Fortune writer Lila MacLellan, who examines whether the metaverse will be an inclusive workspace. Plus: Good Morning America takes cohosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes off the air, and five women sue Bill Cosby under New York’s new sexual abuse law. Have a great Wednesday.

A meta question Well, this may be embarrassing, but I have to admit that I’m intrigued by the metaverse, a topic that makes most adults roll their eyes. 

During the pandemic, I picked up an Oculus headset, determined to keep up with whatever’s next in technology and thinking it could help me “travel.” It did. Mostly I floated inside immersive art shows, but I sampled a dizzying trip to the space station and a couple of city tours, too. 

As a reporter, I’ve also been watching developments in the metaverse workplace, a subject I covered for Fortune @ Work, a just-published workplace playbook on how companies should handle the return to office. As my Fortune colleagues explain in that series, today’s employees want to work remotely and see their work friends. That’s why Dropbox, after going fully remote, found that offering in-person retreats helped to turbocharge its lackluster retention rates. The metaverse is supposed to be an even more practical compromise, allowing people to feel the presence of others without schlepping into the office.  

Metaverse technology is still nascent, but having sampled today’s VR meeting spaces, I’m ready to accept that one day, when headsets become lighter and VR software easier to navigate, we’ll be brainstorming in an immersive or mixed reality about as often as we do in Zoom today. But this looming change means that now is the time for companies that are building their metaverse offices to get serious about inclusion. 

On one hand, the metaverse promises to improve diversity and inclusion in a few ways. VR and AR applications could enable employees who are at-home caregivers (mostly women) to be as “present” in the office as those who toil in a company’s physical headquarters. For the same reason, using VR might help chip away at 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 might adopt new identities at work—building avatars that resemble animals or imaginary figures—and that this could minimize workplace sexism or racism. 

Today, women playing virtual multiplayer games face bias or harassment even when they don’t present as a woman on-screen, says Phoebe Gavin, a career coach, executive director of talent development at Vox, and a gamer. Players have a way of determining who is who, she says, adding, “Do you think people aren’t going to find out that the lizard at 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 being designed for them.  

Finally, a recent study from McKinsey found that today’s metaverse leadership roles are dominated by men, despite evidence that women are spending more time in the “protometaverse” than men and are more likely to take charge of metaverse projects.

The virtual workplace is several years away, but companies should be discussing these red flags now, lest we end up with a future of work that looks a lot like the past. 

Read my full story on the metaverse at work here and see the full Fortune @ Work playbook here.

Lila MacLellan

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.


Georgia elections Sen. Raphael Warnock is the projected winner of Georgia’s runoff Senate election on Tuesday. Warnock defeated Herschel Walker, a Trump-endorsed and antiabortion Republican whose campaign was marred by scandals, including two ex-girlfriends alleging he paid for their abortions. New York Times

Hidden truths Nearly half of all pregnant women get noninvasive prenatal screenings. But the tests are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and ambiguity on testing accuracy 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’s request for comment, but earlier this year the company announced more safeguards to reduce unwanted tracking. CNN

Off the air Good Morning America cohosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes have been temporarily taken off the air while ABC News and network president Kim Godwin decide on a course of action. A relationship between the two cohosts, who are married to other people, was first reported last week. Washington Post

MOVERS AND SHAKERS Lux Capital promoted Deena Shakir to general partner and Grace Isford to partner. Kate Muzzatti joins Maven Clinic as chief people officer. Osso VR hired Stacie Frederick as chief technology officer and Heather Gervais as chief revenue officer. Angela Song joins KiwiCo as chief marketing officer.


Strict ban Indonesian lawmakers banned sex outside marriage and cohabitation for unmarried couples on Tuesday. The new criminal code applies to foreign residents and tourists and is punishable by jail time. CNN

Cosby lawsuit Five women filed a lawsuit against Bill Cosby in New York on Monday, using the state’s new law allowing adult sexual abuse survivors to sue their abusers despite the statute of limitations. An attorney for Cosby called the lawsuit “frivolous” and denied the allegations, which date back decades. CNN

Shuttered doors Abortion clinic closures doubled year over year in 2022, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Forty-two independent clinics, primarily located in the South and Midwest, closed as of November, compared with 20 last year. Bloomberg


Women are sharing their PCOS and fertility struggles following Keke Palmer’s pregnancy announcement Glamour

Quinta Brunson missed the quiet-quitting memo Cosmopolitan

Deb Perelman could do this forever Romper

As the world focuses on soccer, a women’s team in exile aches to play New York Times


“When you get an opportunity like this, you have to pour your heart and soul into it, because you don’t know when the next chance is. I think that is my biggest fear: Please don’t let this be the one and only.”

Michelle Yeoh on her critically acclaimed lead performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once

This is the web version of The Broadsheet, a daily newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet