Ubisoft Announces Plans To Shake Up The Company’s All White Male Editorial Group

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Photo: Emmanuel Dunand, Getty Images
Photo: Emmanuel Dunand, Getty Images

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot announced today in an email to employees that the game publisher will be revising the composition of its currently all white male Editorial Department which oversees creative decisions across all of its global studios. He also outlined other measures to try to address a recent wave of allegations about harassment and misconduct at the company’s studios.

“The situations that some of you have experienced or witnessed are absolutely not acceptable,” Guillemot wrote. “No one should ever feel harassed or disrespected at work, and the types of inappropriate behaviour we have recently learned about cannot and will not be tolerated.”

“Specifically,” he continued, “I have decided to revise the composition of the Editorial Department, transform our human resource processes, and improve the accountability of all managers on these subjects.” Ubisoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment about what that revision entails.

The change to the Editorial group will impact the most senior level of creative leadership at the company. It will also belatedly address concerns expressed by the company’s own employees that the composition of the group was a sign of how out of step Ubisoft has been with the times.

In January, Ubisoft had announced a reconfiguration of this powerful Editorial group, which has steered the direction of the company’s huge franchises for years. At the time, seven people were named to the group, including a few who already held the position. All of them were white men. On the company’s internal message board where Ubisoft workers post with their real names, employees fumed at the group’s long-standing lack of diversity.

In an internal message to the company four days later, Serge Hascoët, Ubisoft’s chief creative officer and the man responsible for picking the team, tried to apologise. “We have heard this feedback and agree that we can and must do better when it comes to diversifying the Editorial Team and our development teams at Ubisoft in general…The entire Editorial Team, including me, is acutely aware of this need and is making it a priority.” To that end, Hascoët said the Editorial Team would be taking on mentors, and encouraged “a diverse pool of internal applicants.”

Two of the Editorial group’s current members, Maxime Béland and Tommy Francois, are currently suspended pending the outcome of an outside investigation into allegations of misconduct, according to a report by Bloomberg. Yesterday, the French newspaper Libération published detailed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by Tommy François. He responded to the newspaper through his lawyer, saying the alleged victims should contact the judicial authorities. “Such complaints would thus have the advantage to allow authorities to assure the authenticity of these allegations and allow us to respond and demonstrate their falsehood,” the lawyer said, based on a translation of his remarks by Kotaku. The Libération also reported that of all the Editorial VPs, Hascoët is closest with François and treats him like his right-hand man.

In addition to an apparent change-up of the Editorial group, Guillemot also announced the creation of two new posts to specifically deal with issues of workplace toxicity. The first is a head of workplace culture, which will be filled by Lindwine Sauer, currently the Projects Director in the company’s Strategic Innovation Lab. The second is a head of diversity and inclusion. No one was named to that position, but Guillemot said they will report directly to him. In addition, the email says the company will be holding a number of discussions with employees next week about their concerns and how to create a safer workplace.

Comments

  • While I appreciate the sentiment, hiring someone who is sub-par or not a good fit just to meet a diversity quota or rejecting qualified people because they are white (and/or male) isn’t the way to make sure you have a productive workplace. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem though in that to encourage diversity in applicants you need to show you have a diverse workplace.

    • I understand your point. A quota system is not a perfect solution. However it is a start. Once you have a more diverse board, you open yourself to new ideas and new views. It also puts forth the right role model for the kid who is going to school and wants to know who he/she wants to be later on.
      And I know that there are lots and lots of very talented people out there who come from a diverse background. The argument about hiring someone with sub par talent is disingenuous at best. The point here is to bring awareness at leadership level that a more diverse board setup will push greater talent to come to your company.

    • These practices aren’t about unqualified people being hired, they merely seek to address minorities being overlooked due to bias. A recent study conducted in Australia found 3 out of 4 people hold a negative bias towards indigenous people, whether they’re aware of it or not. These biases come into play when people are being hired.

    • It’s worth reconsidering rejections based on “not a good fit”, since they can represent hidden biases. For example, expecting a potential employee to regularly attend after work social events might have the effect of filtering out people with families. Requiring people to relocate to a particular country might filter out people from countries without friendly visa arrangements.

      You might decide you still want to keep those requirements, but it’s a good idea to justify them beyond just “good fit”.

    • That is almost never what happens. Institutional support for, focus on, and policies to promote diversity almost always lead to higher quality of talent not lower. Cultures that perpetuate hiring people who ‘look like you’ (whether explicitly or unconsciously – and its normally the latter) are the thing that tend to create talent and performance issues.

      I am a senior executive at a large global firm that has been very serious about promoting diversity (our Oceania senior executive team is now, finally, 50/50 in gender; though that was not our numerical target) and the positive effect that this type of inclusivity has on every facet of our business is empirically measurable.

      My intuition is that when the most senior group of creative people at Ubisoft is fundamentally non-representative on either their player base or their staff, that is problematic for their business; not only culturally but also from a performance perspective.

      The generic knee jerk response of ‘quotas mean under qualified people are going to get jobs’ is a really tired, disproven and (as one commenter put it earlier) often disingenuous response.

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