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Driving inclusion through virtual reality

June 9, 2021 / Global

You’ve heard of using virtual reality to play video games, but how about to increase empathy, reduce bias, and encourage more inclusive behaviors? To meet our goal of making Uber the most inclusive workplace on the planet, we wanted to get creative. That’s why we’re piloting a virtual reality learning experience through Praxis Labs that puts employees directly in the shoes of someone else’s experience. To learn more, we sat down with Lara Avisov, a Senior Business Partner on our Diversity & Inclusion team. 

Why use virtual reality to drive D&I? 

“Virtual reality helps you take on the 1st person or bystander perspective of someone experiencing an instance of oppression or bias in the workplace. When you’re experiencing that firsthand, there’s a psychological and physical impact that it has on you, which helps institute patterns of behavioral change, as well as increased empathy and understanding. Our goal is to enable employees to build inclusive leadership skills, and to have the skills to disrupt instances of bias in the workplace. 

In congruence with our anti-racism commitments, and in the wake of all that was 2020, we wanted to deploy something that would facilitate meaningful and visceral change and upskill our teams around diversity, equity and inclusion in an immediately impactful way. We also wanted something that’s bold and forward-thinking. This was the right time to turn to VR.”

What are the experiences employees watch in virtual reality? 

“Employees are immersed in scenes spanning from interviewing to conference room meetings, where they take on the perspective of a person on the receiving end of bias, or a bystander to the situation. They are then given choices for how to navigate the instance, and guided through how access to power and cultural context might impact the decisions made throughout the process. From start to finish it’s a holistic learning journey.”

How does this pilot complement other D&I initiatives?

“This pilot is part of a larger journey, which begins with some baseline understanding of intercultural competencies and creating self-awareness. As that’s developed, we move to activating teams into seeing how their actions (both individual and at the team level) impact others; and then how processes, policies and systemic inequities create disparities. We create space for people to have “other awareness”, within those systems as well – which is where this VR pilot comes into play. It bridges “other awareness” and how inequity or bias might exist (and how to address it) in a really poignant way. This way, employees can work to understand gaps and practice bridging them.”

Learn more about Diversity and Inclusion at Uber →