Meta announced on Tuesday that its metaverse avatars will have legs, but it remains uncertain if that will also be true for the company’s $70 billion bet on a virtual world. Meta’s decision to go all-in on the Metaverse has caused its stock price to tank and led to ridicule from many quarters—but that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of chief business officer Marne Levine, who predicts the technology will especially benefit one segment of the population.
“It’s particularly going to be a game changer for women,” Levine said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women conference in an interview with Fortune editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell. “Because it levels up the technology, it also levels the playing field.”
Levine’s observation on gender parity concluded a big day for the company. At Tuesday’s flagship Meta Connect event, the company described its plans for getting its metaverse into the mainstream. For now, those plans include a $1,499.99 Meta Quest Pro VR headset (available for purchase October 25) and a partnership with Microsoft that will let users attend Teams meetings as a cowboy hat-donning avatar. And the event’s big reveal: a fall sweater-clad Mark Zuckerberg avatar showed off his new knees (“Seriously, legs are hard!” he exclaimed).
In her talk with Shontell, Levine explained that Meta’s metaverse will benefit women inadvertently; studies show women prefer remote jobs, and Meta’s metaverse technology would make remote labor feel less remote. She said simulative technology like eye contact, sidebar conversations and whiteboarding during avatar-led meetings would make remote workers feel like they’re in “actual meetings.”
As the metaverse and virtual reality are relatively new technologies, there are no large-scale studies that show whether these emerging technologies will be positive or detrimental to women. That said, anecdotal evidence is not all positive—when Meta first opened its metaverse, one user reported being groped by a stranger. Now Meta has “community guides” meandering around the metaverse to answer questions and enforce the code of conduct that bans things like sexual assault.
Many speculate Meta is pushing metaverse as a result of Apple’s privacy changes that have driven up the costs of acquiring customers by Instagram and Facebook ads. Levine acknowledged this: “Apple made a bunch of changes on their platform, and it changed the way businesses big and small are able to find new customers.” She said her main goal is helping these businesses generate profitability, though did not tie this objective to marketing in the metaverse.
Levine worked in government and tech before jumping to Meta in 2010. After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2005, Levine worked in the U.S. Department of the Treasury followed by years as chief of staff for Harvard President Larry Summers’ and at the National Economic Council before starting as Facebook’s first-ever vice president for global public policy in 2010. She moved up the company to serve as Instagram’s COO. In June 2021, she landed in her current role as Meta Chief Business Officer, overseeing all revenue generating initiatives (read: everything).
Levine also responded to Meta’s sinking stock, corporate morale around hiring freezes and the media’s skepticism around its $70 billion investment into virtual reality. “People at Meta–they genuinely have this mindset, which is that things are going to change and evolve,” said Levine. “If you’re not comfortable with that, it’s probably not the right place for you.”
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