Meet the Women Who Are Building the Metaverse

The buzzword on the tip of everyone’s tongues lately is “metaverse.” The term was searched online an estimated 2.62 million times last fall. But what exactly is the metaverse and what does it mean for the future of business and gender equality? To answer the first part of that question: The metaverse is software and hardware that allow users to play or work in virtual 3D spaces. As of now, it can be accessed through a smartphone, but eventually, it will progress toward advanced virtual reality or augmented reality headsets. 


As for how the metaverse will impact gender equality? This was a topic of conversation at the Virtual Equality Lounge™ @ CES 2022, where The Female Quotient gathered the women who are building the metaverse to share what the metaverse means to them, their businesses, the future, and how it will change the equation for gender equality.


Here’s what they had to say: 


Paula Cuneo, Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Marketing, Meta


As the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Marketing at Meta, Paula Cuneo leverages the metaverse and virtual reality to drive business results and social impact. She describes the metaverse as “an operable, decentralized embodied internet that facilitates human connection and even creates a feeling of visceral presence.”


Cuneo is passionate about using virtual reality for good and unlocking its potential to transform lives for the better. “The opportunity to build a metaverse that is safe, inclusive and equitable truly comes once in a lifetime,” she shared. “That can only happen, I believe, if it is built by everyone for everyone.


Cuneo also explained that the metaverse is not a new concept but presents an opportunity for equity and representation that was not available in the past. “Today’s thought leaders are positioned to ensure that the metaverse is an entertainment, education and commercial space where people can build, do business and play in a safe, equitable community and in community with each other,” she said.


Nonny de la Pena, CEO & Founder, Emblematic Group and Founding Director, Narrative & Emerging Media Program, ASU


Described as the “The Godmother of Virtual Reality,” Nonny de la Peña is the program director of Arizona State University’s Center for Emerging Media and Narrative, where she leads a research and graduate program that focuses on emerging media technologies in the areas of arts, culture and nonfiction. She is also the CEO of Emblematic Group, where she leads the creation of technologies that enable intense, empathic and engaged storytelling. Her latest endeavor is called REACH.Love, a no-code WebXR platform that enables users to create and distribute augmented reality and virtual reality stories directly in the browser. 


She shared what excites her most about the metaverse: “I think that we are going to see a lot more opportunities in the metaverse for people to be seen and challenge their concepts of what is happening in the world.”


Irene-Marie Seelig, CEO, AnamXR


Irene-Marie Seelig is the co-founder at AnamXR, the world’s first cloud-based platform. Dubbed as “The Shopify for Web-Based Virtual Reality E-Commerce and Experiences,” the early stage startup is creating a gateway to the metaverse by developing virtual worlds that are accessible on the web for music, fashion and creatives and that are built off of proprietary technology and Unreal Engine. 


“The metaverse is this connective tissue where you can diversify capital and bring in more women, more powerfully,” Seeling explained. “It’s also a place where you can showcase what you really want to be without the laws of physics holding you back.”


AnamXR focuses on bringing a realistic perspective to brands, creators and artists to showcase themselves from their own desired aesthetic, as opposed to joining other metaverses that may not be as explanatory of the stories they want to tell. 


“At AnamXR, we help brands launch their own metaverses and help them create events and stores,” Seelig explained. “These are all being streamed online. We are taking down the barriers.”


Heather Shaw, CEO, CCO, and Founder, Vita Motus Design Studio


Heather Shaw is the CEO, founder and Chief Designer at Vita Motus, an innovative multi-disciplinary production design firm that focuses on the creation of groundbreaking concepts, high-tech productions and inspirational sculptural installations for today’s most influential artists, festivals and brands.


“Vita Verse is a place where we focus on music, entertainment and bringing people together inside of the virtual experience,” Shaw explained. “Our main purpose is to bring people into the digital spaces as authentic versions of themselves, not as avatars. We are also creating a pathway to connect with people regardless of the hardware they have (if they don’t have AR or VR headsets).”


When asked to describe the metaverse and its potential impact, Shaw said, “The metaverse is really about linking different disciplines, and we are really excited to be a part of that in the entertainment space — where music venues are linked to games, shopping experiences. media and communication.” 


Summer Park, Founder and CEO, Biyard Corp.


Summer Park is the founder and CEO, Biyard Corp., an investment and business advisory service for blockchain, impact and cross-border areas.When asked about the potential for the metaverse to create spaces of equality, Park shared, “In the metaverse world, we only have the opportunity to be judged by what we say, what we do or what we achieve, not by how we look. The metaverse allows us to have more human-to-human conversations.” 


Joanna Popper, Global Head, VR, Go-to-Market, HP


As the Global Head of Virtual Reality for Go-To-Market and Location Based Entertainment at HP, Joanna Popper leads HP’s initiatives for Go-To-Market and Location Based Entertainment for Virtual Reality. She describes the metaverse “as the future of how we will connect, collaborate and create with each other, as well as how culture will be shared and how [government] will be done.”


For those interested in learning more about the metaverse and virtual reality, Popper encourages people to experiment. She said, “Go into the world, set up your identity, dabble in NFTs and look at some of the creator tools. The future is here it’s just not equally distributed. If you have the ability to have access to these worlds, I encourage you to experiment. See what you like and what works for you and go start creating so we can have diverse voices creating the metaverse.”


Who are some other women who are driving the needle forward on equality in the metaverse?

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