Activision, facing internal turmoil, grapples with #MeToo Reckoning

More than 1,500 workers at video game maker Activision Blizzard left their jobs this week. Thousands signed a letter reprimanding their employer. And even when the CEO apologized, current and former employees said they would not stop making a fuss.

Shay Stein, who used to work at Activision, said it was “heartbreaking.” Lisa Welch, a former vice president, said she was “deeply disappointed.” Others took to Twitter or waved signs outside one of the company’s offices on Wednesday to share their anger.

Activision, known for its popular game franchises Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and StarCraft, has been embroiled in an uproar over workplace behavior issues. The turmoil stems from an explosive lawsuit the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed last Tuesday, accusing the $ 65 billion company of fostering a “frat boy work culture” in which men joked. about rape and women were routinely harassed and paid less than their colleagues.

Activision publicly criticized the agency’s two-year investigation and allegations as “irresponsible behavior by irresponsible state bureaucrats.” But his dismissive tone angered employees, who criticized the company for trying to sweep away what they said were egregious problems that had been ignored for too long.

The intense reaction was unusual. Of all the industries that have faced allegations of sexism in recent years, including Hollywood, restaurants, and the media, the male-dominated video game industry has long been noted for its overtly toxic behavior and lack of of changes. In 2014, feminist critics of the industry faced death threats in what became known as Gamergate. Executives at gaming companies Riot Games and Ubisoft have also been charged with misconduct.

Now, actions at Activision may indicate a new phase, where a critical mass of the industry’s own workers are indicating that they will no longer tolerate such behavior.

“This could mean a real liability for companies that are not caring for their workers and are creating unequal work environments where women and gender minorities are kept on the sidelines and abused,” said Carly Kocurek, associate professor at the Illinois Institute. of Technology that studies gender in videogames.

He said the California lawsuit and the aftermath of Activision were a “big deal” for an industry that has traditionally ignored claims of sexism and harassment. Other game companies were probably watching the situation, he added, and considering whether they needed to address their own cultures.

Activision chief executive Bobby Kotick apologized to employees Tuesday, saying responses to the lawsuit were “deaf” and that a law firm would investigate company policies.

Santa Monica, California-based Activision said in a statement for this article that it was committed “to lasting change, listening and continuing the important work to create a safe and inclusive workplace that we can all be proud of.”

In interviews, seven current and former Activision employees said that for years there had been egregious behavior at the company, up and down the hierarchy. Three current employees declined to be named for fear of retaliation. His accounts of what happened at work largely align with what is stated in the state lawsuit.

Stein, 28, who worked at Activision from 2014 to 2017 in a customer service role, helping gamers with problems and glitches, said she was constantly being paid less than her ex-boyfriend, who joined the company at the same time. time than her. and did the same job.

Stein said she once turned down drugs her manager offered her at a Christmas party in 2014 or 2015, soured their relationship and hampered her career. In 2016, a manager messaged him on Facebook, suggesting that he must be into “some weird stuff” and asking what kind of porn he watched. She said she also talked about her male colleagues joking that some women only had their jobs because they performed sexual favors for male superiors.

“It was really painful,” Stein said, adding that he felt like he had to “endure it.”

Welch, who joined Activision in 2011 as vice president of consumer insights and strategy, said she knew the company had a reputation for a combative culture, but was intrigued by the prominent role.

Then, at a hotel on a work trip that year, Welch said, an executive pressured her into having sex with him because she “deserved to have a little fun” after her boyfriend had died weeks earlier. She said she turned it down.

Other coworkers suggested that she “connect” with them, she said, and she regularly commented on her appearance over the years. Ms. Welch, 52, said she was also repeatedly overlooked for promotions in favor of less-skilled men.

She said she did not report the incidents, partly because she did not want to admit to herself that her gender was a “professional responsibility” and she loved her job. But by 2016, she said, her doctor had convinced her to leave because stress was damaging her health.

Until the lawsuit came out, Welch said he thought his experience was unique to the company. “Hearing that it is on this scale is deeply disappointing,” he said.

Addressing the allegations by former employees, Activision said “such conduct is abhorrent” and would investigate the allegations. The company said it had distanced itself from its past and improved its culture in recent years.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which protects people from unlawful discrimination, said it did not comment on the open investigations. But his lawsuit against Activision, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also skimped on details. Many of the misconduct allegations centered on a division called Blizzard, with which the company merged through a deal with Vivendi Games in 2008.

The lawsuit accused Activision of being “a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.” Employees participated in “bucket crawls” in which they got drunk and acted inappropriately around women in work cubicles, according to the lawsuit.

In one case, an employee committed suicide while on a business trip due to a sexual relationship she had had with her male supervisor, according to the lawsuit. Before her death, male colleagues had shared an explicit photo of the woman, according to the lawsuit.

When the lawsuit was made public last week, Activision said it had worked to improve its culture, but also moved to defend itself. She said publicly that the state agency had “been quick to file an inaccurate report” and that she was “sickened by the reprehensible conduct” of mentioning suicide.

In an internal memo last week, Frances Townsend, Activision’s chief compliance officer, also called the lawsuit “truly without merit and irresponsible.” Ms. Townsend’s memo was released On twitter.

Employees reacted with fury. An open letter to Activision leaders asking them to take the allegations more seriously and “show compassion” for the victims drew more than 3,000 signatures from current and former employees on Wednesday. The company has about 10,000 employees.

“We no longer trust that our leaders will place the safety of employees above their own interests,” the letter read, calling Ms. Townsend’s comments “unacceptable.”

Organizers of the strike, which was announced Tuesday, also presented a list of demands to executives. These included ending mandatory arbitration clauses in worker contracts, more hiring and promoting various candidates, publishing salary data, and allowing a third party to audit Activision’s human resources and reporting procedures.

On Tuesday, the company’s shares tumbled. That same day, Activision told employees that they would be paid while they attended the strike. Mr. Kotick later apologized.

“I am sorry that we have not provided adequate empathy and understanding,” he said in a note to employees. “There is no place in any part of our company for discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind.”

Kotick, who has come under fire for a $ 155 million salary package that makes him one of the highest-paid executives in the country, added that the company would strengthen the team investigating misconduct allegations, fire managers found to be investigations had been impeded. and remove game content that has been flagged as inappropriate.

Employees said it was not enough.

“We will not return to silence; we will not be appeased by the same processes that brought us to this point, ”the organizers of the strike said in a public statement. They refused to be identified for fear of retaliation.


Oliver Roberts
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The entry Activision, Facing Internal Upheaval, Deals with the #MeToo Reckoning was first published on Es de Latino News.

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