Microsoft apologized Friday for hiring scantily clad dancers at its official Game Developers Conference after-party in San Francisco.
Reports surfaced Friday morning about the Thursday night party, which had “erotic schoolgirls” dancing on podiums and socializing with attendees.
Some people at the party voiced their displeasure on Twitter:
This is the first fucking time I've felt this unwelcome at a games event. I know it happens and it shits me.
— Kamina Vincent (@spamoir) March 18, 2016
Even Microsoft’s own employees weren’t happy:
— Aaron Greenberg ? (@aarongreenberg) March 18, 2016
In a statement, Microsoft Head of Xbox Phil Spencer apologized for the party:
“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,” Spencer said. “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.”
Given the gender disparity and sexism within the tech industry — in particular inside the gaming community — this isn’t the best look for Microsoft, which also hosted a Women in Games lunch at GDC this week. Other outlets penned stories with headlines like “Microsoft’s GDC party extends tradition of sexism in the gaming industry,” and, “Sexism is still a thing at Microsoft’s GDC party.”
Microsoft dealt with a similar issue in October 2014 when CEO Satya Nadella found himself in hot water early in his tenure after making controversial comments about women in the technology industry at a Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event.
The company spent months thereafter addressing the issue head on, later making diversity one of the pillars of its corporate culture and rolling out inclusion efforts like “unconscious bias training.” Microsoft also released a video earlier this month encouraging young women to study computer science and pursue tech-related careers.
Update: Spencer sent an email to Xbox staffers as part of a longer response to the party. Microsoft posted it online, and you can read it in full below.
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.