Mozilla Fosters the Next Generation of Women in Emerging Technologies
At Mozilla, we want to empower people to create technology that reflects the diversity of the world we live in. Today we’re excited to announce the release of the Inclusive Development Space toolkit. This is a way for anyone around the world to set up their own pop-up studio to support diverse creators.
The XR Studio was a first-of-its-kind pop-up at Mozilla’s San Francisco office in the Summer of 2018. It provided a deeply needed space for women and gender non-binary people to collaborate, learn and create projects using virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.
The XR Studio program was founded to offer a jump-start for women creators, providing access to mentors, equipment, ideas, and a community with others like them. Including a wide range of ages, technical abilities, and backgrounds was essential to the program experience.
Inclusive spaces are needed in the tech industry. In technology maker-spaces, eighty percent of makers are men. As technologies like VR and AI become more widespread, it’s crucial that a variety of viewpoints are represented to eliminate biases from lack of diversity.
The XR Studio cohort had round-the-clock access to high quality VR, AR, and mixed reality hardware, as well as mentorship from experts in the field. The group came together weekly to share experiences and connect with leading industry experts like Unity’s Timoni West, Fast.ai’s Rachel Thomas, and VR pioneer Brenda Laurel.
We received more than 100 applications in little over two weeks and accepted 32 participants. Many who applied cited a chance to experiment with futuristic tools as the most important reason for applying to the program, with career development a close second.
“I couldn’t imagine XR Studio being with any other organization. Don’t know if it would have had as much success if it wasn’t with Mozilla. That really accentuated the program.” – Tyler Musgrave, recently named Futurist in residence at ARVR Women.
Projects spanned from efforts to improve bias awareness in education, self defense training, criminal justice system education, identifying police surveillance and more. Participants felt the safe and supportive environment gave them a unique advantage in technology creation. “With Mozilla’s XR Studio, I am surrounded by women just as passionate and supportive about creating XR products as I am,” said Neilda Pacquing, Founder and CEO MindGlow, Inc., a company that focuses on safety training using immersive experiences. “There’s no other place like it and I feel I’ve gone further in creating my products than I would have without it.”
So what’s next?
The Mozilla XR Studio program offered an opportunity to learn and build confidence, overcome imposter syndrome, and make amazing projects. We learned lessons about architecting an inclusive space that we plan to use to create future Mozilla spaces that will support underrepresented groups in creating with emerging technologies.
Mozilla is also sponsoring the women in VR brunch at the Sundance Film Festival this Sunday. It will be a great opportunity to learn, collaborate, and fellowship with women from around the world. If you will be in the area, please reach out and say hello.
Want to create your own inclusive development space in your community, city or company? Check out our toolkit.