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Q&A: Is the glass ceiling really broken in tech?

A new wave of representation is brewing in the tech workforce, fuelled by increased recognition of diversity’s importance.

Simone Berry, Co Founder/CEO of POC Lab. Image by POC lab (with permission).
Simone Berry, Co Founder/CEO of POC Lab. Image by POC lab (with permission).

Mark Zuckerberg, Satya Nadella, Ari Meilich, David Baszucki, Tim Sweeney – these men have been at the top of the immersive digital platform and gaming space for half a decade or more. But is the glass ceiling ready to be shattered? 

During a panel discussion hosted by Advertising Week in October 2023 titled, “Women In Tech: Pioneering An Inclusive & Authentic Digital Frontier,” several leading women in the space discussed how digital media is becoming an important platform to offer unprecedented opportunities to voice diverse perspectives, share unique stories, and cultivate creativity.

To delve into the mechanics of digital projects that have amplified representation, diverse creativity, and distinctive narratives in digital marketing, Digital Journal sat down with one of those panellists, Simone Berry, Co Founder/CEO of POC Lab, an award-winning culture & virtual experiential studio.

Digital Journal: They call you the “Chief Metaverse Baddie.” How did you earn that title?

Simone Berry: “Chief Metaverse Baddie” reflects my personality and mission to disrupt the status quo in gaming and virtual worlds. Embracing this persona, I challenge conventional norms, pushing boundaries to create innovative and inclusive digital experiences that empower diverse communities and redefine the future of virtual engagement.

DJ: Women make up only 28 percent of the tech workforce. Why do you feel there is a new wave of representation brewing?

Berry: A new wave of representation is brewing in the tech workforce, fuelled by increased recognition of diversity’s importance, and initiatives that start at an early age to promote women in STEM. However, achieving true gender equality requires addressing systemic barriers and fostering inclusive workplace cultures. While more women are assuming leadership roles, there’s still much to do to empower women and ensure diverse representation in the industry.

DJ: With the 2023 focus on artificial intelligence/ChatGPT, where does web-based gaming and 3D media stand in the field of emerging technology? Is the Metaverse still a thing?

Berry: Yes, the Metaverse is definitely the next horizon, and there is a lot to be excited about. It’s a convergence of AI, gaming, and 3D content, offering immersive experiences. It is advancing through fostering collaboration, education, and creativity. Brands/agencies must pay attention as it’s the future of consumer engagement, interaction and commerce. Beyond in-game digital assets, there is still opportunity to link in-game with ecommerce, offering new avenues for marketing, customer engagement, and brand experiences in a digitally connected world.

DJ: How can technology like this help brands successfully navigate the aspects of diversity and inclusion?

Berry: Technology is not a product, it is a story. What is the story you want to tell and how does that story speak to your fans and the greater global population? Consumers don’t want to be sold a product. They want to immerse themselves in the experience of your product – to be a part of the story. But brands must work to ensure they are creating experiences that allow people to interact in their own way, so it reflects their ideals, personality and their personal “brand.”

DJ: You recently created something called the Cultureverse. What is that and how was Walmart involved?

Berry: The Cultureverse is a groundbreaking, immersive virtual experience that honors the rich tapestry of hip-hop’s last 50 years and celebrates the genre’s profound influence on culture, all in partnership with Walmart. The Cultureverse is more than just a platform; it’s a cultural movement with the objective of celebrating black culture and creativity. Our aim is to provide increased accessibility to technology and a global reach through emerging technology. We wanted to celebrate the 50th but also look forward to the future. We are extremely proud that we were able to bring in 25 black and brown creators, artists and brands who had never before participated in the metaverse. This project combines technology, culture, commerce and community to create meaningful and immersive experiences for all. Our partnership with Walmart aligned in a shared mission to supercharge the unlimited potential of the black community. The black and unlimited platform aligned perfectly with our mission and vision for experience.

DJ: What does POCLab hope to achieve in the long-term?

Berry: As diverse communities gain representation and ownership in the development and utilization of Web3 technologies, we can expect to see a greater emphasis on addressing systemic inequalities and improving access to resources and opportunities for all. Furthermore, by fostering a culture of inclusion and collaboration, we hope to inspire future generations of technologists and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, paving the way for a more inclusive and prosperous digital future. In essence, our efforts to inject diversity into the world of Web3 have the potential to not only democratize access to technology but also to catalyze positive social change on a global scale.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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