The metaverse is in its infancy. Its definition is likely to evolve. The consensus view is that the metaverse is the next iteration of the internet, whereby the internet becomes something that people immerse themselves in more deeply rather than something they simply view: an evolution from 2-D to 3-D across a range of interface. The metaverse's early consumers and leaders will shape its future as with other disruptive technologies. Many people are wondering what role women will play.
We set out to better understand how gender dynamics are playing out in the early-stage metaverse by examining a range of data, including those collected for McKinsey’s June 2022 report on value creation in the metaverse. 1 1. “Value creation in the metaverse,” McKinsey, June 14, 2022. Additional sources include Crunchbase, the Metaverse Standards Forum, and the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 (OMA3). We found an already discernible gender gap in the metaverse, similar to the gap that exists in Fortune 500 companies and start-ups, where less than 10 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, 2 2. Emma Hinchliffe, “The number of women running Fortune 500 companies reaches a record high,” Fortune, May 23, 2022. only 17 percent of venture capital (VC) dollars go to women-led and women co-led companies, 3 3. Of the 17.0 percent of funding, 2.4 percent went to companies with women-only founders, and 14.7 percent went to companies founded and co-led by both women and men. For more, see “The US VC female founders dashboard,” PitchBook, last updated October 3, 2022, data through September 30, 2022. and just 15 percent of VC general partners in the United States are women. 4 4. “PitchBook report on women in VC finds growing number of female checkwriters could bolster female-founded startups disproportionately impacted by pandemic,” PitchBook, November 2, 2021.
The reality is that women are spending more time in the protometaverse than men are and, according to our data, are more likely to spearhead and implement metaverse initiatives. However, just as in the tech sector as a whole, 5 5. “Women in the Workplace 2022,” McKinsey, October 18, 2022. women represent a minority in the metaverse economy. Both the entrepreneurial capital and the CEO roles in the metaverse space remain disproportionately reserved for men. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.
Our research on consumers in the metaverse shows that 41 percent of women had used a primary metaverse platform or participated in a digital world for more than a year, compared with 34 percent of men. 6 6. We conducted a metaverse consumer survey in April 2022 in Western Europe and Northern Asia. Our insights are based on the responses of 60 percent of the respondents (n = 1,928) who were familiar with the metaverse in some capacity. In addition, more women spent significant time in the metaverse: 35 percent of the women surveyed are power users, spending more than three hours a week in the metaverse, compared with 29 percent of men (Exhibit 1).
Women are more likely to engage in hybrid use cases in the metaverse, traversing both physical and digital worlds to participate in activities such as gaming, fitness, education, live events, and shopping via augmented and virtual reality technologies. The metaverse is being used by men to participate in purely digital experiences such as gaming and social events.
In a survey of almost 450 female executives, 7 7. We conducted a metaverse senior-executives survey in Asia–Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), and North and South America in April 2022. Our insights are based on the responses of 448 respondents. 60 percent of women report that they have implemented more than two metaverse-related initiatives in their organizations. The numbers show that these female executives are 20 percent more likely than their male counterparts to implement multiple metaverse initiatives, especially around marketing, employee learning and development, and product design (Exhibit 3).
Female consumers and executives are more proactive about metaverse usage and initiatives than male consumers and executives, but they are still locked out of leadership roles in the metaverse economy Female-led metaverse companies received a lower share of total entrepreneurial funding than male-led metaverse companies in the past five years.
A number of standards bodies are emerging to set interoperability norms for the metaverse—among them, the Metaverse Standards Forum and the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 (OMA3). But only about 8 to 10 percent of the member organizations are led by female executives (Exhibit 5). This percentage is similar to the roughly 9 percent of Fortune 500 companies led by women today. 8 8. “The number of women running Fortune 500 companies reaches a record high,” May 2022.
The metaverse has the potential to bring profound change to the global economy, as well as to create new and more equitable opportunities for all who use it, which is why it's important for all key stakeholders to understand the dynamics at play. Women may be a strong metaverse user base. While the metaverse is still in its infancy, addressing the gender gap in leadership roles is of paramount importance. Stakeholders will need to engage a range of different voices and bring in different leadership into the companies and coalitions shaping the metaverse.