Report: Activision Blizzard Calls Policy To Make Hiring More Diverse ‘Unworkable’

Report: Activision Blizzard Calls Policy To Make Hiring More Diverse ‘Unworkable’
Photo: Lukas Schulze, Getty Images
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Earlier this month, Activision Blizzard was asked to institute some version of the Rooney Rule, a policy requiring employers to interview diverse candidates when hiring, according to a new report by Motherboard. Lawyers for the massive publisher behind Call of Duty and World of Warcraft responded that such a policy would be “an unworkable encroachment on the Company’s ability to run its business.”

The largest federation of unions in the country, the AFL-CIO, which also happens to be a shareholder in Activision Blizzard, submitted this proposal to the SEC. In the report, obtained by Motherboard, the organisation wrote that instituting a policy similar to the Rooney Rule (a 2003 NFL policy instituted to address the lack of diversity among coaching staffs) would increase “workforce diversity by requiring that the initial pool of candidates from which new employees are hired by the Company shall include, but need not be limited to, qualified women and minority candidates.”

Motherboard reports that adoption of the proposal could be voted on at future shareholder meetings, but Activision Blizzard is trying to get the SEC to intervene to prevent that from happening.

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“While the Company has implemented a Rooney Rule policy as envisioned [for director and CEO nominees], implementing a policy that would extend such an approach to all hiring decisions amounts to an unworkable encroachment on the Company’s ability to run its business and compete for talent in a highly competitive, fast-moving market,” lawyers for the company wrote in a letter to the SEC obtained by Motherboard.

Activision Blizzard and the AFL-CIO did not immediately respond to a request by Kotaku for comment. A spokesperson for the gaming company told Motherboard it has invested in scholarship and mentoring programs to help “develop the best and brightest future diverse talent.”

“Our talent is the lifeblood of Activision Blizzard,” the spokesperson said. “We value the diversity of the Activision Blizzard community and understand that our employees and players come from a wide array of backgrounds. In order to deliver epic and engaging entertainment for a diverse, growing global audience, our workforce must reflect these communities.”

The AFL-CIO sent a similar proposal to Electronic Arts, of which it is also a shareholder, Motherboard reports.

“In accordance with our standard procedures, EA’s Board of Directors will consider the stockholder proposal,” a spokesperson for EA told Kotaku in an email when asked about whether it would be willing to institute its own Rooney Rule across the entire business.

“The Board is committed to maintaining hiring practices that promote inclusion and diversity at EA,” the spokesperson wrote. “More broadly, EA believes that a diverse and inclusive workforce is key to our success. It fuels our creative culture and enables us to create amazing games and experiences for millions of players around the world. EA is committed to attracting diverse, dynamic talent — prioritising inclusive values and practices at every step of the employee journey.”

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The video game industry has long been criticised for being dominated by white men, especially in managerial and c-suite positions. Last June, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests over the police killing of George Floyd, many gaming companies released statements of support for the movement’s calls for justice and racial equality, but few backed up these rallying cries with specific commitments to addressing issues within their own walls.

“Today, and always, we support all those who stand against racism and inequality,” Activision Blizzard tweeted at the time. “There is no place for it in our society — or any society. Black lives matter.”

However, the company declined to comment when asked by Kotaku in June about any particular steps it was taking to promote equity and diversity within its own ranks. A couple weeks later Activision Blizzard announced $US3 ($4) million in donations to the United Negro College Fund, Equal Justice Initiative, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow, but nothing further.

EA was a little more reflective.

“Racial justice matters,” the company wrote on its website during the protests. “We’ve long held equality, inclusion, and diversity at the centre of our beliefs at Electronic Arts.”

EA announced that it would contribute $US1 ($1) million to the Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP Legal Defence & Educational Fund collectively, give employees an additional vacation day each year to volunteer in their communities, make Juneteenth a company holiday, and hold a “Company Conversation’’ to discuss how to “focus its efforts to make an impact fighting bias, discrimination, and injustice in today’s world.”

It also published its first annual Impact Report last November which included a section on the company’s demographics. Of it’s 9,800 full-time employees, 54.6% were white, 22.3% were Asian, 8.2% were Hispanic or Latinx, and only 3.2% were Black. Less than a quarter were women.

“While we’ve made some progress, we have much more work ahead of us to continue bringing greater representation into our company,” CEO Andrew Wilson wrote in the report.

Comments

  • Blizzard hires who they want to hire and it should be the most qualified person for the job regardless of their sex, orientation, gender, etc. Employment isn’t about feelings, it’s about doing the job and if they don’t get the job then they aren’t the right person for it (since the employer sets that standard and nobody else). If that’s all white men then that’s the statistics at work, not “discrimination” and these people need to learn the difference before they cry about who does what job.

    I’d be pissed if I only got a job because of being a diversity hire, because I’d rather be paid for my skill than so some shit company gets a tax break or bonus or whatever arrangement they’ve got going on.

    • Pretty much, being hired for diversity sakes means they don’t value your skills at all, only the brownie points you get them with gullible morons.

    • Surely they’d be able to continue doing this if a majority of their shareholders imposed this policy on them?

      All the proposal does is require that there be some diverse candidates in the hiring pool: if Activision’s current hiring process really is getting them the best employees, then the change should have no effect on the outcomes.

        • As I said, for the proposal to make a difference it would require that both (a) a majority of share holders want the proposal adopted, and (b) there is something wrong with the current hiring process.

          If either of those are false, then nothing will change. So it seems kind of weird for management to fight against putting it to a vote at the AGM.

    • The candidates interviewed are qualified for the position, you wouldn’t be getting the job because of your gender or ethnicity.
      The idea is to eliminate bias, be it subconscious or intentional.

      • Except it doesn’t. It then creates doubts in the minds of people who got the position as to whether or not they should be there in the first place even at the interview stages. I found out I was given a university place on the basis of “affirmative action” here in Australia because they wanted more women in the degree for their stats and I’m still pissed of about it. It’s a terrible fucking thing to do to someone, because it places their entire employment prospects in a sort of doubt when employers aren’t being honest to score brownie points.

        I’m pro not lying to people to score diversity brownie points. More helpful than giving them a bullshit interview to make a numbers monkey happy, is telling them exactly why they won’t reach the interview stage so it can be improved upon by the applicant. It’s far more realistic and helpful across the field than wasting everyone’s time.

    • Oh, no! However will they find people who can rehash the same game over and over again?
      They could do diversity if they wanted to. They just choose not to.

    • My work has implemented a ‘diversity target’ which isn’t about ‘interviewing numbers’, it’s about actual employment with things like x% of managers to be female (or different ethnicity) by 2025.

      I actually think that’s a terrible message cause every time a female (or coloured person, etc) is now promoted, are they going to be concerned it’s based off their sex/nationality/skin colour or their actual qualifications?

      Obviously work places have had a terrible white male promoting problem for decades and it should never be about the colour of your skin or your gender, but implementing policies like the one my work has makes it MORE about your gender or ethnicity, just in reverse.

      Hopefully one day we can reach a nice equilibrium where people are just ALL treated equal..

      • Pretty sure that when I get my promotion ahead of a bunch a of straight white guys I ain’t going to be losing a lot of sleep worrying about how perhaps I somehow didn’t get my position based on merit. But seriously, I appreciate your concern for my welfare.

      • The worst example is the AU military/police (can’t remember which one, might be both) who are aiming for a 50/50 split in women and men employed.

        It’s ridiculous on so many levels, it’s a completely mind numbing target.

  • I can see where they’re coming from on this. (Hypothetically) If they get only 10 people who apply for a job all not minority or women and 1 is perfect for it, they then have to find a qualified woman / minority interview before a job can be offered to that person during which time a competitor may offer them a job.

  • Employment should always be based on merit! There are those who melt in the sun, that will tell you that its an obligation to help pull the minority up and gain greater representation in all work, but if I spend 5 years in study, a further 5 in gaining useful experience, and get overlooked for someone who has no experience and is hired just to fill a quota, I have more then a right to feel let down. Diversity is great and all, but never when it comes at the expense of merit, otherwise why try, I mean I could always be that autistic, Jewish, aboriginal, and fill that quota, but I would rather you see my worth based on my achievements and hire me on merit!

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