The metaverse is shaking up how we run businesses, play games, make money, and come together as communities. It’s an emerging area of tech that can take a while to wrap your head around – what with all the new terms and concepts to get a hold of. We’re talking blockchain, NFTs, crypto, DAOs, virtual burritos – wait, what? Yes, Chipotle made virtual burritos a thing on Roblox. That happened. 

But what actually IS the ‘metaverse’?

In this guide, we’ll outline what it is, how it’s being used, and what opportunities and challenges it presents for women in technology. 

Let’s dive straight in.

What is the metaverse?

A research paper in 2013 described it as ‘an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds’. 

‘Virtual world’… hmm, kind of sounds like a video game, right? Gaming often leaps to mind when discussing the metaverse, and is certainly an industry driving its adoption, but the metaverse has applications well beyond this. (Examples below.)

And while ‘3D’ may lead you to assume that virtual reality (VR) headsets are required to participate in the metaverse, it’s even expanding beyond this definition. Augmented reality (AR) technology is allowing users to enhance the physical world in real-time through digital experiences, so you can “tap into a virtual world while still feeling present in this one”. Many are arguing that AR is what’s going to bring the metaverse to life for most people.

So in a nutshell, the metaverse is a network of digital worlds where people can engage in a range of virtual experiences. And it’s so completely immersive that it’s supported by its own currency.

Here are a few other terms you should get to know while we’re here:

Web 3.0 – This is the next iteration of the internet on which the metaverse will exist. It’s based on a decentralized infrastructure enabling users to be sovereign over their identities and data. Read more about it on Forbes.

NFT – A ‘non-fungible token’ is a digital asset (think: artwork, GIF, meme) that can be purchased with cryptocurrency. When you own an NFT, you have digital rights to the original copy of it.

Blockchain – Blockchain is a decentralized ledger that records digital information, such as transactions, securely online. (You can learn more about it by listening to this interview with Dr Tal Rabin on the Girls in Tech Podcast!)

Cryptocurrency – One form of blockchain is cryptocurrency, which is a virtual currency that can be used to trade tangible or digital assets, without interference from a third-party.

DAO – A decentralized autonomous organization (or DAO) is a group of people who enter into an agreement together to reach a coordinated goal. Often these people are total strangers and never meet in person. You could think of it almost like a crowdfunding campaign, with people buying in to make something happen, whether it be purchasing NFTs or orchestrating real-world transactions.

If your head is spinning, bear with us. Let’s illustrate what the metaverse actually looks like in action.

Applications of the metaverse

  • Gaming – Horizon Worlds is a platform where users with VR headsets can create and explore worlds, solve puzzles, and interact with players from all over the world. Rather than playing within a designed game, players are co-creators and help the platform evolve. 
  • Education – Online classrooms may bring to mind clunky video calls and online programs, but a Brookings Institution publication paints a very different picture of learning in the metaverse: where headset-adorned students are transported to virtual worlds to explore in real-time alongside their classmates. Imagine not only learning about Ancient Greek civilization but walking around in it, virtually.
  • Architecture – Architects and design firms have been using 3D software for a while now to create concepts digitally before they’re built in the real-world. Users can ‘walk around’ in these digital spaces to get a sense of what it would actually be like, and make adjustments before physical construction begins. But architects are finding a whole new line of work in the metaverse, designing and building virtual property. For example, Decentraland Architects designs properties that exist in virtual worlds on the blockchain, which users can purchase using in-game currency.
  • Healthcare – Surgeons in training have a hard time developing specialized skills without frequent opportunity to witness specific and rare procedures in real life. The metaverse allows them to enter a virtual theater and learn vital skills they struggle to learn about in a normal hospital.
  • Finance – Traditional finance institutions are turning to the metaverse to assist customers in carrying cryptocurrency in metaverse wallets. And some metaverse worlds, such as Fintropolis, are even designed to teach people financial skills.
  • Fashion – Virtual fashion shows are already happening, and people pay big money to sit their avatar in a front-row seat! Leading fashion labels are fully embracing virtual fashion design and sales.

What does the metaverse mean for women in tech?

The workplace is evolving – so must we

It’s estimated that by 2050, 5 Billion people will be active on the metaverse. Organizations will use it to engage employees, safely train new staff members, and embrace remote work while retaining an immersive company experience.

You might even be paid in cryptocurrency some day!

The metaverse also promises exciting new jobs for women in tech. For example, many women are taking up roles as VR content creators, ​​3D artists, virtual reality architects, community managers, developers, coders, graphic and fashion designers, and more. 

Check out these 10 metaverse jobs that will exist by 2030. And prepare to update your resume, because you might hold a role like this in the near future.

New challenges are cropping up

While some argue the metaverse may help level out gender divides in industries like tech, we’re already seeing a lack of female representation. This could be due to the fact that more males participate in gaming, a key sector driving innovation in the metaverse. But beyond this, data from November 2021 showed that only 16% of digital art (NFT) purchases went to female artists. 

And let’s not overlook the fact that women are barely (if at all) represented in the boardrooms of the leading metaverse platforms – Meta, Sandbox, Roblox, Fortnite and Decentraland.

Another issue is that women can be exposed to violence and abuse in the metaverse, just as in the real world. For example, metaverse players have reported being groped or even ‘raped’ by male avatars, bringing the need for safety measures into question.

There’s huge potential for women to get ahead

One of the potential benefits of the metaverse for women is that gender won’t be as big an element in worlds populated by avatars. We know that women, and particularly women of color, are historically overlooked for opportunities in the real world, but in a space where appearance doesn’t reflect reality, you can essentially be who you want to be and forge your own path.

Another benefit for women, especially working mothers, is the ability to participate without needing to be physically present. Being able to log into a virtual workplace from anywhere in the world is game-changing for many women – especially mums returning to work.

The growing metaverse is opening up swathes of new opportunities for women in technology, across all industries. There’s a chance to make a name for yourself in this new space, and earn an income on your own terms.

Women need to claim a seat at the (virtual) table

Advocating for gender equality and inclusion in the metaverse is key to ensuring we craft better experiences for women in Web 3.0. DAOs like Women in Web 3.0 are dedicated to crafting an equitable future in the metaverse, and inspiring female artists are leading the way by flooding the NFT market with diverse images of women. Check out:

Diving deep into the metaverse with an expert

Sandy Carter, SVP at Unstoppable Domains, and our GIT Chairwoman of the Board is a pioneer in this space. We were fortunate enough to pick her brain regarding this dynamic space, here are some of the things we covered.

In your opinion, what role does the Metaverse have in encouraging diversity, inclusion, proper representation and gender equality? How do you see this progressing over the next few years?

“The Metaverse isn’t naturally more progressive than the real world, but it gives us an opportunity to start fresh. If the early leaders of the Metaverse focus on making it a diverse, inclusive and equally representative place from the start, we can actually make it a reality. I know we still have a long way to go, but based on the great role models and trailblazers I’ve met while working in Web3, I am sure that we will get there”!

Do you think Blockchain and a decentralized financial system can offer an opportunity for socio-economically disadvantaged women to gain financial independence?

“We’ve seen how new technology can allow people to leapfrog old roadblocks, and Blockchain & defi are another great example of that. By giving women the opportunity to independently take control of their finances with only a mobile phone, this technology is fundamentally changing lives around the globe. There is so much untapped potential out there and working on solutions to help get more women into Web3 is one of the ways to fix that”.

You’ve mentioned that we are still in the “dial-up” stage of the Metaverse and while many people are excited to engage, some are still hesitant and perceive this space as volatile. What would you say to help people overcome their hesitancy?

“If you are hesitant about Web3, just try dipping your toes in! You don’t have to drink all the Kool-Aid to see what we are about. Whether it’s minting an NFT, joining a DAO, or hopping into a Discord channel, there are lots of ways to learn about Web3 without committing your life savings. I think once you see what the community really all is about, it won’t seem so wild anymore”.

You recently revealed that you own 3 NFTs, Women Rise, Long Neckies and Ancient Worries, why did you choose these particular tokens and how did you determine their value?

“While some people are focused on the value of their nfts, I collect projects that I enjoy and resonate with. One of my big missions is helping bring more women and equality to Web3, and these three projects really aligned with my goal. On top of that, they are made up of incredible communities that I love being a part of”!

Sandy also presented at the Girls in Tech Australia conference on the ins and outs of the metaverse, outlining what we can look forward to in this space and some steps you can take to launch a career in the metaverse.   

Step 1: Continue to learn

Because the Metaverse is in its early stages and technology is changing fast, stay up to date by reading blogs, and attending events and conferences (Note: our GIT Conference is coming up soon!)

You could also look into Metaverse courses (here are some free ones) and online crypto courses to learn the basics.

Step 2: Get a crypto wallet

This doesn’t exactly work the same way as a traditional in-your-pocket wallet. It won’t ‘store’ your cryptocurrency (as crypto is decentralized and never really exists in one place) but is a software program that allows you to trade and track your crypto, more like a bank account. Some of the most commonly used wallets are Gemini, Coinbase and Metamask.

This useful guide to picking your crypto wallet is a good place to start. 

Once you’re set up to trade currencies and participate in metaverse worlds, you can look into buying crypto or trading your first NFTs. 

Check out these tips for buying cryptocurrency, and try to start small. We recommend building your knowledge before becoming too invested!

Note: Girls in Tech is not an authorized financial service provider. This information should be used as a helpful tool only. For financial advice specific to your needs, we recommend speaking to a licensed professional.

Step 3: Get a domain

Managing a wallet can get fiddly, which is where a domain comes in. You can choose to reserve one universal name, and use this when making crypto transactions and hosting websites on Web 3.0.

Take a look at how Unstoppable Domains can make life in the metaverse easier.

Step 4: Explore and get creative

Explore worlds, listen to music, view art, and play games. The options are endless when you’re delving into the metaverse. 

You may even be able to find ways to bring the metaverse into your current job or organization. Companies are finding creative ways to immerse their employees and customers in virtual worlds, from virtual training sessions to advertising opportunities. (Just to tout Chipotle again – did you see how the brand made a giant hand smash through the court to grab its dinner at an NHL game?)

Stay curious, and get creative. And importantly, enjoy the process!

Step 5: Advocate for women in the metaverse

At Girls in Tech, we believe the tech industry needs diverse voices and a range of skill sets. However you make your mark in virtual worlds, remember to lift up other women as you go. Empowered women empower women.

So we hope this article has left you a little more in-the-know about the metaverse and what it means for women in tech. Let us know what you think, what you’re excited about, and how you’re planning to get involved over on our Instagram page.