April 15, 2019
We're creating more inclusive communities through virtual reality
By: Joshua Norman-Leagas

You don't have to be a tech expert to be involved in the development of a virtual reality (VR) program that identifies unconscious biases and in turn creates a more inclusive community. All you need is the passion and drive. Just ask recent graduate Joshua.

I studied a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in finance, and a Bachelor of Science majoring in psychology so consulting was a good place for me to start my career.

I love the culture at Accenture. It’s a really good vibe. People are friendly and open. You can reach out to anyone. You notice this as soon as you start.

There are so many opportunities. You can seek out projects or roles that align with your aspirations and values. I’m really passionate about growing my skill set in areas of innovation, because realistically in the future if you’re not disrupting or being innovative within a company you’re going to get left behind.

So naturally I love anything to do with new technologies and am always looking for an opportunity to learn more. Recently I reached out to some colleagues in my network, Lisa Tilley and Behren Schultz, and was told about this VR program being designed to surface unconscious biases. Lisa and Behren were key players in making it all happen, with Lisa being the driver behind this innovative and cool idea.

As soon as I heard about it, I was hooked. I wanted to experiment with VR, it’s a technology that is only going to get bigger, and the actual cause and purpose behind the program was groundbreaking. It’s identifying unconscious biases people may have towards the LGBTI community. It then allows the user to reflect, learn and change. We wanted to provide people the chance to reflect on their bias in a non-judgmental way which ultimately helps us be more inclusive in an aim to work better and achieve great things together.

Background look development testingBackground look development testing

One size does not fit all. Everyone experiences the world differently, and it’s good to be aware of how our words and actions can affect people.

I studied biases in university but learning things in theory and putting them into practice is different.

Unconscious biases are social stereotypes people form about others outside their conscious awareness. These biases stem from one’s tendency to organise social worlds by categorising.

It could be as innocent as asking a male if he has a girlfriend, however those assumptions can make someone else feel uncomfortable. It's not a new thing, it's been happening for years, but people are becoming more aware that not everyone identifies in the same way.

The VR element allows you to step into someone else’s shoes. You step into their body and essentially become them. I’ve done the trial and everything looks so realistic.

When you put the headset on, the program does a deep dive into two people’s perspectives during a conversation. The first perspective is from a person who identifies as LGBTI, and the second is from a person who doesn’t identify as LGBTI. You go through the scenario from both perspectives and then see both people’s thoughts and feelings at the end. The experiences were extracted from real interviews with people from Accenture.

“You look down and you see your hands and feet. It adds another layer of complexity that allows you to experience walking in someone else’s shoes and makes you really empathise with that person.”

Actor script run-throughActor script run-through

Programs like this are just the next logical step in making our workforce stronger. We're at work for a large portion of our lives, and I think it's absurd that someone may feel like they can't be their true selves because of their sexual preferences or identification. Everyone should be made to feel comfortable in their own skin.

I’m not sure how much your everyday analyst gets the opportunity to be involved in innovative and meaningful projects like this in other companies.

“It’s also great to be working for a company that realises that we are not just a resource. We are all individuals with our own thoughts, feelings and dreams for the future.”

It’s nice to be a part of a company that acknowledges that.

Testing the VRTesting the VR

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