Founded by young Australians Brennan Hatton and Rick Martin, Equal Reality is a company designed around education, particularly in professional environments. The story began in 2016, when the two men prototyped a VR application that aimed to tackle unconscious gender bias. It proved itself a success, and Equal Reality has since developed programs that address all kinds of discrimination in the workplace, helping industries tackle bias across the board.
The core idea behind Equal Reality’s VR programs is empathy, allowing people to step into the shoes of characters with marginalised identities, such as people of colour, LGBTQIA folks, and women. The user is then guided through workplace scenarios where they face discrimination from fellow employees or their employers, letting users experience racism, sexism, or homophobia for themselves. The programs are much more engaging than traditional approaches, which are usually just PowerPoint presentations and note-taking, and result in higher rates of retention for participants.
Crucially, users experience the scenarios multiple times from different perspectives: for instance, in A Seat at the Table, the protagonist is a woman who has just returned from maternity leave and is excluded from opportunities to prove herself worthy of promotion. In a management meeting, employers discuss her childcare commitments as barriers to her promotion, leading them to prefer the competing male candidate. At this point, the user – who now inhabits the role of a note-taking assistant – can intervene, letting management know that the male candidate also has an infant child to care for. With this interjection, the user levels the playing field between the candidates, removing the subconscious gender bias from the equation.
The above scenario is a great tool for teaching users about how it feels to face unconscious bias, as well as how they can prevent the effects of unconscious bias in their workplace. By experiencing both sides of the story, users can empathise with marginalised co-workers and feel prepared to confront bias happening around them, hopefully leading to better workplace practices. With similar immersive programs that tackle racial bias, disability bias, LGBTQIA discrimination, positions of power, and in-group/out-group dynamics, Equal Reality can educate people in a variety of scenarios, placing them at the centre of engaging exercises.
Equal Reality’s innovative approach to HR training services is sorely needed, with traditional approaches struggling to make ground. In contrast, the VR programs have demonstrated great success, with 99.2% of users understanding how it feels to be on the receiving end of discrimination. In all areas of life, empathy is a necessity, so if VR is the best way to awaken empathy in people, we hope Equal Reality continues to find great success.
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