What just happened? Activision Blizzard announced this week that it’s setting up a “Workplace Responsibility Committee” to try to fix the company’s reported problems with workplace harassment. It’s the latest in a series of responses to several lawsuits and investigations accusing many top employees of discrimination against female employees. All three game console manufacturers have expressed concern over the situation, and the CEO said his departure isn’t impossible.
Activision Blizzard announced it appointed two independent directors—Dawn Ostroff and Reveta Bowers—to the new committee. The company is also looking for a third “diverse director” to add to the board. The press release adds that CEO Bobby Kotick will provide frequent progress updates and that Activision will require management to develop performance indicators to show their progress. The company has already been holding assessments since October.
Employees have already criticized the committee’s establishment because Ostroff and Bowers have been directors at Activision Blizzard for years, and they don’t trust company insiders to oversee themselves. According to a senior UI engineer for World of Warcraft, employees asked for someone who is not under the company’s control.
Today Activision Blizzard has created a committee to oversee its progress which will be led by… checks notes… two of the Activision Blizzard board members. “We are overseeing ourselves, we promise to be objective.” ABK employees asked for a third party not controlled by ABK.
— Valentine Powell 💙🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (@valentine_irl) November 23, 2021
Since the summer, Activision Blizzard has been embroiled in a sexual harassment lawsuit from the state of California, an investigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission, and a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the company of allowing a “frat boy” culture that discriminated against female employees. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an extensive report alleging that Kotick was aware of the harassment for far longer than was previously known.
Since then, an employee petition demanding Kotick’s removal has reached over 1,800 signatures, and an activist group of investors has also asked for Kotick to resign. So far, the company board has stood by Kotick.
Executives from all three console manufacturers say they’re concerned about the reports. The CEO of PlayStation expressed disappointment in Activision Blizzard’s defense of Kotick, and the chief of Xbox said they’re currently reevaluating their relationship with the company. Most recently, Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser mentioned that the company has taken some action and is considering others.
According to WSJ, Kotick told top executives at a meeting that he could resign if changes didn’t come to the company quickly enough. Many other high-ranking employees have already left over the last few months, including Blizzard’s president, a chief legal officer, and high-level game designers.