When it comes to women in tech, the industry just keeps shooting itself in the foot. After all, how could you not argue that diversity in Silicon Valley is a problem when Microsoft hired scantily-clad dancers in sexy schoolgirl outfits to perform at its Game Developer Conference (GDC) afterparty — just a few hours after hosting a “Women in Gaming” luncheon? And now, the tech company is issuing an apology for the embarrassing incident.
“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,” Microsoft’s head of Xbox Phil Spencer noted in a statement. “That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated,” Spencer said.
In recent years, the gaming world has come under serious fire for its sexist and non-inclusive nature, with female players reporting harassment and digital abuse, and female characters often portrayed as sexually provocative. Needless to say, this latest faux pas does nothing to improve the industry’s image.
A number of party attendees expressed discontent via social media, with tweets like the following from Tin Man Games editor Kamina Vincent.
I like dancing, I like talking to devs. But not at this #GDC16 party. Thanks for pushing me out of this party, Microsoft.
— Kamina Vincent (@spamoir) March 18, 2016
There were also photos posted to Twitter and Instagram (though it would appear that many of them have since been removed).
In an email to the Xbox organization, Spencer wrote, “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.”
Noting that Microsoft deserved its criticism, the executive suggested that the party and its choice of entertainment created an alienating and offensive environment. “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,” Spencer concluded. “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.”
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