Microsoft’s top executives were “embarrassed and appalled” upon seeing photos of female dancers in schoolgirl outfits at a Microsoft Xbox-sponsored event at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week, the company’s executive vice president of human resources, Kathleen Hogan, wrote in a companywide email this afternoon.
“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,” Hogan told employees in the email, informing them that an internal investigative team is looking into the matter “to make sure we have a full understanding of what happened.”
“We are not going to tolerate this,” Hogan added. “I appreciate that we will be judged by our deeds, and not just our words.”
The email, provided to GeekWire by Microsoft, marks the second time in as many days that top executives at Microsoft have spoken out against the incident.
This comes as tech companies, including Microsoft, try to bring more women and minorities into the male-dominated workforce in an effort to make the industry more diverse and inclusive. Gender-related issues and the treatment of women have been an ongoing problem in the video game field, in particular.
Here is the full text of the email from Hogan to Microsoft employees, along with the earlier message from Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox.
From: Kathleen Hogan
Sent: Saturday, March 19, 2016 3:56 PM
To: Microsoft – All Employees
Subject: Microsoft Values & Commitment
I’m sharing Phil Spencer’s mail about the party Microsoft sponsored Thursday evening in San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference. When we heard about this and saw the photos, the entire Senior Leadership Team was embarrassed and appalled.
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.
We are not going to tolerate this. I appreciate that we will be judged by our deeds, and not just our words. And yet every day, we see our people taking important and meaningful steps forward in our journey towards inclusion. As one example, at this same Game Developers Conference we had dedicated and passionate Microsoft employees sponsoring a Gaming 4 Everyone event.
I have heard from many of you individually and on Yammer that you can’t believe we let this happen. It is not a stretch to say that the company as a whole is shocked and upset, and that we all are determined that this is never repeated. In addition to what Phil says, Microsoft’s Employee Relations Investigations Team is involved to make sure we have a full understanding of what happened. And beyond this incident, we are strengthening our commitment to our diversity and inclusion efforts, while evaluating where we must take stronger action to show we are more resolute than ever to make progress and hold ourselves accountable.
From: Phil Spencer
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2016 12:01 PM
To: Xbox Team FTE Worldwide
Subject: TEAM XBOX Values & Commitment
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.
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. That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. This matter is being handled internally, but let me be very clear – how we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.
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. 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.