Activision, once dinged for ‘frat boy’ culture, hires more women

Activision, which employs about 13,000 people, has appointed an officer to oversee diversity, equity and inclusion, and named a head of inclusive game design. — AP

Activision Blizzard Inc, one of several video-game companies accused of gender discrimination in recent years, said it has made progress in hiring more female employees. Rival Riot Games Inc has also reported gains.

Santa Monica, California-based Activision said employees who self report as women or nonbinary increased to about 26% of the company’s total workforce in 2022, up from 24% the prior year.

Activision, which employs about 13,000 people, has appointed an officer to oversee diversity, equity and inclusion, and named a head of inclusive game design. The maker of Call Of Duty and other titles has agreed to be acquired by Microsoft Corp although the deal has faced opposition by regulators in the US and the UK.

Game makers are slowly increasing their diversity after facing lawsuits alleging widespread sexism. Riot Games, the maker of League Of Legends, issued a report last month citing progress expanding its ranks of female employees. The share of women staffers there rose to 27.5% in 2022, from 22% in 2019

However, the industry remains less diverse than the tech industry overall despite pressure from regulators, media and employees. By comparison, women made up about one-third of employees at Google and Microsoft last year. Although about half of gamers are women, according to the Entertainment Software Association, they make up less than a quarter of game developers, according to some estimates.

In 2021, California’s Civil Rights Department sued Activision for fostering a “frat boy” culture. The 2021 complaint alleged that 80% of employees were male and that “very few women ever reach top roles at the company”. The prior year, Ubisoft Entertainment SA faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

In 2018, a Kotaku investigation revealed rampant sexism at Riot, which is owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd. The Civil Rights Department filed a complaint against Los Angeles-based company the next year.

In its latest report, Activision said the share of women in game development leadership roles jumped 58% last year.

Activision’s new chief diversity officer, Kristen Hines, in her first interview since taking the job, said her early goal was to help reframe the company’s thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion. “How do we embed across all of our business so it evolves from a ‘Did we check the box’ mindset,” she said.

Activision’s goals for the year ahead include publishing promotion rates by gender globally and by race in the US.

The industry’s past behaviour toward women was “irrefutable and unacceptable,” Hines said. – Bloomberg

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