Technology

Metaverse Equality Requires Businesses To Ditch the Status Quo With Karen Baker

Metaverse Equality Requires Businesses To Ditch the Status Quo With Karen Baker

MP spoke with Karen Baker, founder and president of the Washington, D.C., office of Boathouse Group, Inc., a marketing and tech agency where she works with c-suite clients to coordinate internal strategy, marketing, branding, and national advertising campaigns. With more than 27 years of experience, Baker leverages creativity, innovation, and collaboration to foster a space that facilitates the development and delivery of actionable strategies and mission-critical solutions that support the project, program, and performance-related initiatives in the public and private sectors. 

Karen Baker
Founder and president of the Washington, D.C., office of Boathouse Group, Inc. Karen Baker / Photo courtesy of Karen Baker

Equality Generally 

What barriers prevent businesses from achieving true internal and external equality on an ongoing basis?

Constantly evaluating the business's power dynamics and organizational structure is necessary to achieve internal and external equality. 

It will remain when it has not been evaluated by HR or even leadership. 

There must be a concern for how employees feel about “belonging” within an organization, and companies must be open to having a conversation toward improvement. 

What roles do businesses play when it comes to equality, and how will such roles redefine how businesses operate?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) facilitators, staff, or consultants are needed for a business to operate successfully around equity. 

Businesses creating a strategic plan and a message will not push the needle forward. 

They must start to practice it. 

It will not be enough to train once a year for a day; but instead, they must design a framework that allows for improvement and sometimes change.

Equality in the Metaverse 

How will the Metaverse force businesses to be more inclusive of traditionally marginalized groups?

I wouldn’t say that the Metaverse will force businesses to be more inclusive of traditionally marginalized groups. 

Still, I will say that it will expose businesses that do NOT know how to be inclusive. 

We’ve seen this already with product or marketing failures from companies that are derogatory to certain races or ethnicities, and people take to social media to call them out on it–cancel culture is real. 

Interested in learning more about the Metaverse? MP covers many areas of the Metaverse, including business, ethics, legal, and more.

Companies can no longer hide behind the statement “we didn’t know….” 

There is enough access to information now that these “mistakes” should be a thing of the past, but they aren’t because the company’s design table is homogenous. 

That must change. 

How will the Metaverse empower members of the LGBTQ+ community to be more self-expressive, and what must be done to get us there?

I believe the Metaverse will empower all communities to be more self-expressive, not just the LGBTQ+ community. 

Take the recent Lego 2002 Pride Month campaign, The A-Z of Awesome. 

The focus was “To celebrate our incredible LGBTQIA+ fans, we’re inviting the community to build a colorful alphabet of identities out of LEGO® bricks!” 

As we have used platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter to change minds, create change, and foster connections around the globe, the Metaverse must attempt to do the same, bringing great responsibility to all.

How can the Metaverse help businesses create more productive and equal workplaces, and what is needed to make such workplaces a reality? 

Design Justice Network is looking to use collective accountability and experiential learning from a community of design practitioners. The support comes in understanding and applying some of the principles. 

Principle 2 states, “We center the voices of those directly impacted by the outcomes of the design process.” 

Businesses have to create space for this conversation and exploration.

How must businesses adapt their strategies to ensure equality in the Metaverse, and are most businesses that enter the Metaverse capable of such adaptations? 

The World Economic Forum has begun to address how to develop and build an inclusive space for consumers and businesses. Cathy Li of the Forum shared in her article “How To Build an Economically Viable, Inclusive, and Safe Metaverse,” “[The Metaverse]...needs to be developed openly with a spirit of cooperation between the private sector, lawmakers, civil society, academia, and, most importantly, the people who will use these technologies.” 

Even though the question of ensuring equality in the Metaverse for businesses and brands continues to develop, let’s look at the business model coupled with active listening. 

This may require redesigning how business decisions are made, and leadership must be aligned. This will help drive the strategies and even a new narrative.

Inequality in the Metaverse 

What would inequality look like in the Metaverse, and why? 

Inequality in the Metaverse looks like the now – our present state of living. I have a Master’s in Design Thinking, a methodology I use in business for creative problem-solving. 

Part of the process is empathy along with a human-centered design approach. There has to be a level of responsibility when building in the Metaverse to avoid bias. 

How might the Metaverse result in increased inequality, and how can it be avoided? 

Increased inequality can result from design practitioners and decision-makers not approaching technology sustainably. 

The power of a designer must be understood. 

A human-centered approach must be a big part of the change that happens.

How might some bad actors try to maintain inequality in the Metaverse, and what can be done to ensure they are unsuccessful? 

More collectives like Design Justice Network and World Economic Forum must come together to talk as a collective community. 

The ability for large brands and big companies to continue the status quo must not be an option. 

The change for equality must happen everywhere, not just in the Metaverse space only.

What will happen if businesses continue not to promote true equality, access, and integration in the world we are in now? 

We cannot see the Metaverse as a magical place that will solve wicked problems that we don’t address today in real life. 

How do we expect communities to believe this will be any different if we don’t start to address this as leaders of businesses?

Responses provided by Karen Baker, founder and president of the Washington, D.C., office of Boathouse Group, Inc.

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