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VIRTUAL REALITY APP TRAINS WOMEN TO NEGOTIATE GENDER PAY GAP

The gender pay gap has come to the forefront of news recently. With business industry trends continuously changing, wage inequality has become an important topic to address and resolve, now more so than ever

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The gender pay gap has come to the forefront of news recently. With business industry trends continuously changing, wage inequality has become an important topic to address and resolve, now more so than ever.

Whether the inequality in workplace wages boils down to systemic sexism or more personal reasons, members of the White House are pushing to eventually achieve an equal gender pay. Over a two-month ‘hackathon’, seven new apps in the U.S. have been designed by tech companies and programmers to help women negotiate higher salaries and eliminate wage disparities in the workplace. One of the programs developed by Variable Labs, of Oakland, Calif., is the negotiation simulator.

This has been developed for a Samsung Gear VR device. Rather than learning skilled practice techniques through negotiation training and courses to perfect expertise with specific industry professionals like The Gap Partnership, the app intends to help users experience their negotiation skills and improve soft skill interview settings in virtual reality at the touch of an app.

“The environment is immersive,” Variable Labs co-founder Mario de la Vega said. “It’s like being in the room with the interviewer. It allows the opportunity to rehearse, and through practice and rehearsal, you build confidence.”

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the app, claiming that “the app for a Samsung Gear VR device intends to help users practice negotiation techniques and improve soft skills in an interview setting.”

The VR simulation joins several new apps recently unveiled at the White House. They will each use the Commerce Department’s recently unlocked data on the issue of gender pay gap in hope of finally allowing women to tackle the wage negotiation process and receive the pay they deserve.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who gave each developer feedback when presented with the new VR apps, said that she doesn’t believe companies set out to discriminate but instead both employers and employees often lack the key information needed when it comes to wage negotiations.

“I wish I had these tools to benefit my own career, and for the benefit of the businesses I’ve run,” Pritzker said. “These tools can provide better information to small businesses and empower individuals.”

Another app which uses Commerce Department data is ‘What’s My Pay Gap?’ The data is used to analyse a user’s personal gender pay gap reliant on individualities such as age, occupation and race, and is based on MIDAAS – a tool launched in early 2016 opening up income-related data from the American Community Survey, aiming to provide users answers to queries within the matter of seconds.

An example of findings from the app showed that Hispanic women, aged 24-35, with a bachelor’s degree and working at a for-profit company face a gender pay gap of 68 cents for each dollar, something that a similar male employee with the same educational qualifications and around a comparable age would earn. By comparison, the average gender pay gap among workers in the U.S. is 79 cents to the dollar.

Adam Bonn field, a developer, presidential innovation fellow and founder of Spinnaker said the app digs deep to uncover where inequality comes from. In developing the app, Bonn field learned that it is not so much education or race that influences gender pay gap, but rather career choice.

“When you think about things that lead to inequality in your life, you often make incorrect assumptions,” he said.

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