Microsoft's efforts to address the "bro" culture that dominates the gaming industry took a stumble this week. To its credit, Microsoft immediately recognized the error and apologized for it.
Microsoft hired scantily clad "schoolgirl" dancers for its official Game Developers Conference after-party in San Francisco on Thursday night, report attendees on Twitter and Instagram.
Having the dancers, who were also said to have been paid to socialize with attendees, undercuts Microsoft's efforts to be more inclusive toward women in technology.
The company sponsored a Women in Games lunch at the same gaming event, and CEO Satya Nadella recently told shareholders at Microsoft's annual meeting that the company now has mandatory "unconscious bias" training and acknowledged that it was "not where we want to be" in terms of hiring diversity.
In a picture posted by developer Henrik Ludvigsen, you can see the dancers up on elevated podiums:
A photo posted by Henning Ludvigsen (@henningludvigsen) on Mar 17, 2016 at 11:29pm PDT on
And here's a video, from another Instagram user:
A video posted by @ivanmoen on Mar 17, 2016 at 11:53pm PDT on
Party attendee Kamina Vincent says that the men in the crowd appeared to be having a good time. And she says that she plans on making a formal complaint to Microsoft:
Making a formal complaint tomorrow. I will not stand for this. I'm trying to encourage women into the industry then this happens.
— Kamina Vincent (@spamoir) March 18, 2016
Even Microsoft Xbox's marketing lead thinks it's not a great look:
— Aaron Greenberg (@aarongreenberg) March 18, 2016
Game developer Brianna Wu says that she's seen the same thing at other Microsoft gaming events in San Francisco:
— Brianna Wu ✈ SXSW (@Spacekatgal) March 18, 2016
Given that women already have a hard-enough time breaking in to the technology industry, events like this only make things more difficult — it reinforces the notion that gaming is an industry by men, for men.
Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Spencer issued a full apology, via a statement provided to Business Insider:
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. 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.
Spencer later expanded on his apology in an e-mail sent to Xbox employees, saying that "we justly deserve the criticism."