California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) says that renowned game publishing studio Blizzard Entertainment, and its owner Activision Blizzard, have created a culture of “constant sexual harassment” and gender-based discrimination, in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday that claims top executives were aware and/or involved. And in the hours since the suit was revealed, numerous women have already stepped forward to corroborate the allegations.
The details are so disturbing that we’re going to start with a trigger warning right now. The idea that male employees held “cube crawls” is one of the tamer allegations in the lawsuit.
This is by far the worst case of structural sexual abuse at a gaming company to date, and you really need to the read the full complaint to understand just how criminal the behaviour of male Activision Blizzard employees and managers has been, but some of these examples should give you a good idea. It even led to the suicide of one of the female employees at the company.
The abuse was so widespread, so pervasive, so depraved, and so institutionalised, that in my view, we’re dealing with a criminal organisation that ought to be shut down and banned, much like any other criminal organisation. The fact this is a company (or a religious institution, for that matter) should be of no consequence.
The complain itself is the result not of a single employee or one particular case, but of a two year investigation by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
It’s widely known that women are not well represented in tech in general. I’ve debated this before with people I know and they claim that anything less than 50:50 representation implies discrimination. While I’d like to have more women in tech, I believe it’s more complicated than that because women apply for tech jobs at a far lower rate in the first place, so it’s not as simple as saying “low women ratio implies discrimination”.
I think Blizzard is probably guilty of discriminatory practices, but I also feel that we ought to be objective in recognizing that the prosecutor’s role is not to be a balanced or unbiased source. Their facts and documents can be misleading by design because it’s their job to make the defense look bad. Blizzard’s side of the store isn’t represented here at all.
To play devil’s advocate if an employee is assigned to a lower level, well obviously that employee is going to get less pay and it’s going to take them longer to get promoted to a certain position. I bet this is also true of the prosecutor’s own staff themselves. The much bigger question to me is if and why females are assigned to lower levels in the first place. Are there men at the company who also feel they’re at a lower level than they belong? If so this negative experience could be happening equally to both males and females. Is there really systematic sex discrimination or have they merely cherry picked instances to build a case? Answering these types of questions would be key to proving sexual discrimination.
Reminds me of James Damore, the Google employee publicly disclosed the widespread discrimination and toxic culture at Google. Nothing happened in the end, he was fired and Google hasn’t changed one bit since.