Women in VR Panel at VR World Congress 2016

Back in April I was honoured to moderate the Women in VR panel at VR World Congress in Bristol. A virtual reality conference run by the great team at Opposable VR and of course the one and only Dan Page (@DansOnRoad). Who I can’t thank enough for allowing me to bring together a group of great women working within the industry to talk about their journey into VR, challenges that will face us this year and of course representing Women in VR.  


The lovely Zeena from VRFocus live blogged the panel for us – follow the link here to check it out: https://www.vrfocus.com/2016/04/vrwc-2016-women-in-vr-panel-liveblog/

I am not the best public speaker in the world so I was rather nervous before going on especially with talking about such an important issue. It’s hard to gauge sometimes what response you will receive from an audience, but I was over the moon with the feedback, questions and conversation that we had after the panel.  

I have spoken to lots of women working in VR over the last year, especially in the UK and the US and there is a real variety of opinions on addressing “Women in VR” and whether it’s something we should be pointing out at all. I have found that in the USA there is a huge movement for creating Women in VR groups, meetups and clustering together at events. I have spent a long time in a variety of different women in VR groups now, I feel honoured to be part of them however I don’t always agree with the opinions of those in the groups. There are sometimes comments or accusations of slandering men and I often don’t know how to respond or engage with these kinds of comments.

There are a lot of men that I have worked with or spoken to in this industry that are really keen and happy to support getting women into the industry. My business partner is one of them.

I think we can forget that it’s not always about the gender, it’s about the talent. I think sometimes people can get very defensive or aggressive about these kind of issues. (The main reason for being very nervous addressing this panel to the audience)

I touched upon this throughout the panel. I will always help provide a platform for the women in VR and tech but this does not mean that I am going to be forcing my thoughts on others.

Men and Women have been making incredible impacts and creative changes with this fantastic industry. I think it is key to represent both and make sure equality is met. I am extremely proud to help represent the UK for VR.

The women that I brought to the stage, are just a few that have inspired me throughout my own VR journey as a women. They are incredibly passionate, forward thinking and will create fantastic waves in this industry.

I was joined by Sarah Jones (@VirtualSarahJ) who after a decade in television news, moved into academia and is leading research within the narratives of 360 immersive journalism. Through this technology, Sarah has been developing immersive storytelling practices.

Marisol Grandon (@marisolly), who is the head of creative content at the department for international development. Marisol and her team are recognised for innovation in social media, beautiful storytelling, low cost campaigns and high quality all showing the impact of DFID’s work In developing countries.

Liz Mercuri (@FragFox) who is currently a Prince Williams Scholar, selected by BAFTA and Warner Bros to study a Masters in Computer Game Software Development. She is also programmer for Steel Minions, having worked on an educational game for the PS4. However her research focus is virtual reality.

Last but not any less awesome was Sophie Smart (VRSoph). Sophie has been working at Hammerhead VR for over a year and has worked her way up the company and is now in production. Sophie is also conducting research into intergration of VFX and 360 videos for her MA.

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It was great to spend time with these great women throughout the day and reflecting on VR events and how women are represented in the industry. I do believe it is really important to offer a platform to everyone to talk about their experiences and impact they are making.

I asked all the ladies to individually tell me about their experiences of the panel – see below:

Liz Mercuri –  

“The positive reception following the panel and the feedback received was incredible! This support from the talented individuals helping to shape the future of VR, is testament to what exciting times lie ahead! Thank you to Sammy and the ladies on the panel for allowing me to be involved

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Sophie Smart –

Being part of the Women in VR panel meant a lot to me. I learnt so much about our new industry from my fellow panel members and I believe our enthusiasm and love for this technology transcribed well into our panel and encouraged the audience to recognise the successes and potential of women in VR. I’ve made some fantastic friends and I can’t wait for VRWC17 and to see the progress we’ve all made as an industry over this next year. Thank you so much to VRWC for having me and Sammy for inviting me to be on the panel.’

Sarah Jones –

“it’s so important that we show the diverse and great work being done in the virtual space. The next generation are going to grow up wearing headsets and accessing information in so many ways and for girls, seeing a panel of women in VR means that they can work in this world too. If you see it, you can be it”

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Marisol Grandon –

“It was an honour to join the Women in VR panel at VR World Congress. I find the women in VR community to be the most vibrant, collaborative and dynamic group I’ve ever come across. It’s great that VR World Congress wanted to shine a light on the amazing work women are doing around the world. Looking forward, too, to a day when equality is the norm in tech and emerging sectors like VR. The world will be a much more interesting place when 50% of the population are heard and contributing through their experience and vision”

Again I would like to say a massive thank to all the ladies that joined me on stage and I would recommend that you follow them on twitter and keep an eye on their journeys over the next year. They have inspired me over the past year and I hope our panel inspired others to begin their own virtual reality journeys.

Also check out Opposable VR and VRWC on Twitter – @VRWorldCongress @OpposableVR