This past week for Activision Blizzard has been a tough one following the DFEH lawsuit which cited cases of sexual harassment and a “frat boy” culture, especially against transgender women, women of color, nonbinary people, and other minority groups. Today Activision Blizzard staff walkout and demand changes following lackluster responses from upper management over the past few days.
The initial statement from Activision Blizzard when the lawsuit first came to light called it, “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats” and added the cases cited were “distorted, and in many cases false”.
A week after the lawsuit appeared, Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotik has now issued a statement that can be read here. It strikes a slightly different tone compared to earlier statements from upper management.
Activision Blizzard staff are now demanding the following changes to stamp out the toxic work culture that’s been allowed to fester over many years under previous and current management.
1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.
Some of the reports from current and former staff make for difficult reading and it’s appalling such behavior has been allowed to go on despite complaints from staff. They appear to have been left feeling powerless.
Having dealt with upper management myself at Blizzard over the past 25 years, at times it was apparent there was a disconnect between them and their consumers. It doesn’t surprise me that there would also be a disconnect between upper management and staff too.
Today staff will walkout between 9 AM to 6PM PST at the Blizzard Irvine Campus, with fans also joining in the protest online and then logging out of Blizzard games to show their support. The hashtag #ActiBlizzWalkout is being used online to show support on social channels.
The world of Warcraft team also issued a statement that indicated the team will be removing content from the game that, “are not appropriate for our world”. We haven’t seen a similar response from the Diablo team.
The past days have been a time of reflection for the World of Warcraft team, spent in conversation and contemplation, full of sadness, pain, and anger, but also hope and resolve. As we heed the brave women who have come forward to share their experiences, we stand committed to taking the actions necessary to ensure we are providing an inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment both for our team and for our players in Azeroth. Those of us in leadership understand that it is not our place to judge when we have achieved our goals, but rather for our team and our community to let us know when we still have more to do.
While we turn to our team for guidance in our internal work to protect marginalized groups and hold accountable those who threaten them, we also want to take immediate action in Azeroth to remove references that are not appropriate for our world. This work has been underway, and you will be seeing several such changes to both Shadowlands and WoW Classic in the coming days.
We know that in order to rebuild trust, we must earn it with our actions in the weeks and months to come. But we go forward knowing that we share the same vision as our community about creating a place where people of all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds can thrive and proudly call home.
–The World of Warcraft Team
The problems facing the company are not going to be easy to resolve and it’s sad to see a company that shouts about its inclusiveness every year at BlizzCon fail so miserably.