On Friday, it was reported that Microsoft held an afterparty at The Game Developers Conference. This party included light refreshments, people in button downed shirts staring at their phones, and female dancers half naked in schoolgirl uniforms. Hours before this took place, Microsoft hosted a lunch revolving around women in games. How to positively include them into both the workplace and support them in the gaming community. (pro tip: if you want to make women feel valuable and wanted in the gaming community, maybe don\’t hire half naked dancers for an afterparty.)
A lot of tech companies across the world have received heat in the last few years for including women as sexual objects to be looked at, the butt of jokes, or simply not included at all. Thankfully, many companies have been erring on the side of caution when it comes to things like “Booth Babes” and other roles for women who are half naked, told to stand in one place and draw attention to product. I know that Microsoft has since apologized and slobbered all over interviews, stating how wrong this was. Phil Spencer has released several statements on the matter.
“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.”
This makes me laugh a little. But it’s that kind of laugh that is followed by a shake of the head and a shower. I always think it’s cute when brands and companies do something they know is wrong, and then shortly afterwards, mention how misaligned that behavior or action is with their ideals, their mission statement, or their “values”. I admit that i’m on the more narrow-minded side of the lens when a multi-million dollar company references values. It requires a little bit more than an apology to continually mop up sexism left and right, year after year from these male dominant tech companies.
While Microsoft is busy slapping it’s own wrist for PR theater, let’s not forget that it’s not just Microsoft/Xbox who have failed us in this area. Sony has released several ad’s in the past displaying obvious cases of sexism. Apple Music spokesperson Jimmy Iovine did it when Apple Music was released. Samsung did it when they released a solid state drive back in 2014. These are but a few examples of tech giants placing women in boxes amongst peers and saying, “This is your place in this culture.” Simply put, we have to do better than this. We have to demand better foresight from companies that are structuring the technological world we live in. We need to put an end to half assed apologies following instance after instance of disrespect and poor gender representation to such a vital and underused part of the video game/tech community.
It’s not all bad news though. There are more and more women joining the gaming community each year. In a study done last year by Pew Research Center found that 42% of women owned a console while only 37% of men owned the same consoles. Streaming sites like Twitch have community members that are trying desperately to curb the objectivism that comes along with many female streamers’ comments and followings. And probably the best thing, on the development side of things, Girls Who Code is a great nonprofit organization built to bridging the gap between genders in technology programming and engineering. This organization provides building blocks to girls at an elementary level to acquire these growingly useful tools.
There is a long ways to go in this battle, and it requires people of every sex to stand up against this behavior from brands that we support financially and make sure these things don’t happen again. I am quite aware of most companies’ “stance and values” on these issues. I don’t need to hear another press release using buzz words like “diversity” “culture” and “standards” meant to pacify and comfort me. Let’s hold them accountable so we stop these events before they happen.