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There, I just invented a new term, if someone hasn’t thought of it yet – Schoolgirl-gate. And because of this, Microsoft is in hot, hot water. And it’s not just Xbox head Phil Spencer who’s up in arms about it all.
If you’ve been following the latest buzz from the 2016 Game Developers Conference, that was where Microsoft rightly recognized the importance of women in the video game industry at a lunch keynote, only to organize a raunchy party complete with scantily-clad women dressed as sexy schoolgirls. This caused ripples throughout the gaming community, and disappointed a lot of women, not the least those who were at attendance at GDC 2016. But is it enough that Xbox head Phil Spencer issue a lengthy apology for the incident, and promise to look into the matter?
For Anita Borg Institute VP of Strategic Marketing and Alliances Elizabeth Ames, it isn’t enough. In fact, it’s far from enough, as she writes in a short Huffington Post op-ed. She believes that there should be “clear and public consequences” for what happened at GDC 2016. And most of all, she believes that tech companies and the broader tech space should “hold themselves to a higher standard” and do better in treating women NOW. For Ames, an unspecific future date is not going to cut it, and action must be taken as soon as possible.
Aside from Spencer’s apology, Microsoft EVP of human resources Kathleen Hogan sent an internal companywide email on Saturday, condemning the bawdy GDC 2016 party and promising to investigate on the situation.
“This is unacceptable in terms of how we treat women and how we represent Microsoft, and it undermines the culture we are working so hard to cultivate – one that is diverse and inclusive and grounded in a growth mindset,” she wrote. “We are not going to tolerate this … I appreciate that we will be judged by our deeds, and not just our words.” Hogan also added that Microsoft’s Employee Relations Investigation Team is looking into the matter, and that Microsoft is “strengthening (its) commitment to (its) diversity and inclusion efforts.”
Personally speaking, it’s good on Microsoft that it isn’t taking this sitting down, or trying to wash its hands off the incident. It just doesn’t feel right when a lunch celebrating diversity gets followed up later on by a party best suited for a strip club. And, as far as the tech industry is concerned, it’s high time that companies stop fostering that darned boys’ club mentality just because it’s a male-dominated industry. If tech is to make females feel welcome in the industry, then such events should be acted on accordingly, and not followed up on by more examples of alpha male boorishness.