Activision Blizzard COO says company has 'a lot of work to do' on diversity

The video game publisher aims to increase its number of women, non-binary employees by approximately 50% within the next five years

Activision Blizzard has warned of a long road ahead to improve diversity following the release of its first-ever representation report for 2021. 

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According to the report, approximately 24% of its overall global workforce self-identifies as women, in line with its gaming competitors. However, the company acknowledged that those figures vary widely by business unit, with women accounting for 47% of Activision Blizzard corporate, 17% of Activision Publishing, 22% of Blizzard and 34% of King, which was acquired by the company in 2016. Women represented 29% of ABK hires and 26% of ABK attrition in 2021. 

Meanwhile, 36% of Activision Blizzard's U.S. employees identify as a member of an underrepresented ethnic group, lagging behind data available from its competitors. Underrepresented ethnic groups accounted for 51% of Activision Blizzard Corporate, 33% of Activision Publishing, 34% of Blizzard and 60% of King. 

"As you will see by viewing the full data set, we are not sugarcoating the data or cherry-picking only those points where we excel," Activision Blizzard Chief Operating Officer Daniel Alegre said in a letter to employees. "While representation companywide is similar to our peer gaming companies in the United States, this is wholly inadequate in my mind. We will do better. We have a lot of work to do as we build an organization where diversity is as much a core value as innovation."

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The data release comes in an effort to increase transparency as the video game publisher works toward creating a more diverse, safe and inclusive workplace following several months of turmoil. 

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The company's troubles stem from a discrimination lawsuit from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which accused the company of paying female employees less than their male counterparts, providing them with fewer opportunities to advance, fostering a "frat boy workplace culture" and ignoring complaints by female employees of blatant harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, speaks onstage during "Managing Excellence: Getting Consistently Great Results" at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Oct. 19, 2016, in San Francisco. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair / Getty Images)

In addition to the lawsuit, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick has been accused of concealing his knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations against the company from its board of directors, as well as allegedly engaging in inappropriate behavior of his own. Both Activision and the board have defended Kotick and expressed confidence in his leadership moving forward. 

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Several hundred Activision Blizzard employees stage a walkout outside the gate at Activision Blizzard headquarters Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Irvine, CA. Employees said the walkout was in a response to a lawsuit highlighting alleged harassment. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The allegations have resulted in multiple employee walkouts, a class action lawsuit from shareholders, a National Labor Relations Board complaint accusing the company of union busting and worker intimidation, a Securities and Exchange Commission subpoena for Kotick and other executives' disclosures regarding employment matters and related issues and a letter from a group of investors calling on Kotick, board chairman Brian Kelly and lead independent director Robert Morgado to resign by the end of the year

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In October, the company announced a series of goals and commitments aimed at improving diversity within the company, including:

  • Increasing its global workforce of women or non-binary employees by approximately 50% within the next five years.
  • Investing $250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent
  • Investing an additional $250 million over the next decade in initiatives that foster expanded opportunities in gaming and technology for underrepresented communities.

Activision has since set up a workplace responsibility committee to oversee the progress of those goals and commitments. Other actions taken include a zero-tolerance harassment policy and a waiver of required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims. More than 20 employees have exited the company, including former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, and another 20 employees have faced other types of disciplinary action since allegations surfaced in July. 

In addition, the company reached an $18 million settlement to resolve allegations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it subjected female employees to sexual harassment. The company must hire an EEO coordinator and an independent EEO consultant who will engage with the board about its workplace transformation. 

Despite the company's efforts, a group of employees known as ABetterABK have teamed up with the Communications Workers of America to lay the groundwork for a potential union vote. ABetterABk has also established a strike fund for workers protesting recent contractor layoffs at the company's Raven Software studio, known for games like "Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War" and "Call of Duty: Warzone." The fund has raised over $329,000 towards its $1 million goal, which will be used to assist with wages during the strike and for relocation assistance for impacted Raven contractors.