What would happen if the guy who keeps cutting you off in meetings or dismissing your ideas could experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of his rudeness? With virtual reality technologies maybe he could. That was one of the ideas that came to mind listening to the unusual advice for “Mobilizing the Power of Women” at the Ellevate Summit 2018.
At the Summit, Malika Saada Saar, Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights and a long-time human rights attorney, talked about using Google’s virtual reality (VR) platform “to help bear witness to other’s experience.” It made me think about all the ways VR might be used to help bridge the gaps between men and women in the workplace.
Can VR give men the experience of what it’s like to be belittled, continuously interrupted, or passed over and other subtle digs that women endure every day that undermine women’s credibility and career progress? Since many men do not realize how their behavior undermines women, putting the virtual shoe on the other foot might make a difference.
The Ellevate conference, aimed at creating “a movement for action against gender inequality,” assembled an eclectic array of speakers – corporate leaders, artists, entrepreneurs, activists and members of the media – around their theme of “Mobilizing the Power of Women”. The conference was produced by the Ellevate Network, which is owned by former Merrill Lynch Wealth Management CEO Sallie Krawcheck.
These were not the typical voices and insights I’ve heard at dozens of women’s conferences, nor were they the usual pairings of voices on a panel. Usually, panels of people in similar jobs or industries talk about networking, confidence, or day-to-day work or industry issues. Ellevate seemed different.
Here are some highlights:
“Talk about the things people don’t want to talk about,” the outspoken artist-activist-writer Whitney Bell challenged the audience to do on the same panel as Saar. “Break it down to your humanity and have a real conversation,” she impassioned.
“You don’t need to have all the answers before you get the job,” Alina Cho, a long-time broadcast journalist who is a contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning,” explained. As an HP study found, “Women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements.”
“What got you where you are is not going to get you to the next level,” Mike Steib, CEO of XO Group declared. Most motivational speakers say that you know what to do, and Steib reminded them what they do not know, so he may have shaken up a few people.