Continuing a tradition of featuring young women at industry events and automobile trade shows, Microsoft is under fire for hiring female dancers at its 2016 Game Developers Conference party last night in San Francisco. A number of women developers who attended the party were disturbed by what they see as an exclusionary mindset persisting in the male-dominated video game industry.
This is how the games industry excludes women: By pretending we don't exist and having dev parties with strippers. pic.twitter.com/9GsYyEAQOo— Jennifer Scheurle (@Gaohmee) March 18, 2016
On Twitter, video game developer Jennifer Scheurle went on to say "We're talking about amazing women who work in game dev for years already constantly being signaled that this space is not made for them."
Xbox Marketing chief Aaron Greenberg, whose team is presumably responsible for organizing the event, had this to say:
After photos and complaints surfaced on Twitter, Xbox leader Phil Spencer apologized in a letter sent to employees and published online by Microsoft:
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.
The industry may feel additional urgency to change in light of the growing number of women involved in all areas of the business. The International Game Developers Association estimates that 22% of video game developers are women, while 44% of women play video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association.