Microsoft hired a bunch of women wearing very little clothing to dance and socialize with people at the company’s official Game Developers Conference after-party last night in San Francisco, Business Insider reports.
It’s crazy that Microsoft would so blatantly sexualize women — for a few reasons. For one, don’t tech companies realize that it’s not okay to do that anymore? Over the last couple of years, conferences have gotten better about not using “booth babes” to get people to check out their products. Secondly, Microsoft hosts a women in gaming luncheon every year at GDC.
Thirdly, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft is “very focused” on diversity, and even welcomed Rev. Jesse Jackson’s push for inclusion in tech, he said at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in December. He also noted that Microsoft has deployed unconscious bias training to more than 100,000 employees. Someone — or several people — at Microsoft clearly have not received the memo that it’s not cool to be sexist.
[Update with comment from Xbox: “At Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was not consistent or aligned to our values,” Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, said in a statement to TechCrunch. “It was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. I know we disappointed many people and I’m personally committed to holding ourselves to higher standards. We must ensure that diversity and inclusion are central to our everyday business and core values. We will do better in the future.”]
Women, of course, are free to wear whatever the F they want to wear. What’s problematic is that Microsoft chose to throw a party that clearly caters to heterosexual men by hiring women as objects of sex.
“THIS is why we have a shit rate of women in games,” Kamina Vincent, who attended the party, wrote on Twitter. “Because these fucking boys clubs that make people unwelcome. Fuck you.”
She went on to say, “I’m not blaming the women. They’ve got their job for whatever reason. But fuck you Microsoft.”
Microsoft’s latest diversity report cited a workforce that is 73.1 percent male, 59.2 percent white, 5.4 percent Hispanic and 3.5 percent black.
[Update: The Verge obtained the internal memo Spencer sent to employees regarding the party. Here’s what it said:
How we show up as an organization is incredibly important to me. We want to build and reflect the culture of team Xbox – internally and externally – a culture that each one of us can represent with pride. An inclusive culture has a direct impact on the products and services we deliver and the perception consumers have of the Xbox brand and our company, as a whole.
It has come to my attention that at Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values. That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. This matter is being handled internally, but let me be very clear – how we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.
It’s unfortunate that such events could take place in a week where we worked so hard to engage the many different gaming communities in the exact opposite way. I am personally committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion is central to our everyday business and our core values as a team – inside and outside the company. We need to hold ourselves to higher standards and we will do better in the future.