Microsoft’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco was criticized when an after party was held with purportedly sexist tones. Attendees criticized the tech company when they found that the party included women dressed in school girl outfits dancing on raised platforms.
Attendees posted photos of the women on Twitter and Instagram, noting that the night’s so-called entertainment was proof of the industry’s ongoing casual sexism. While the tech world has worked to overcome sexism and cater more to women than in the past, the party reminded some of the game industry’s long history of objectifying women.
The company sponsored a Women in Games lunch just hours before the party, and CEO Satya Nadella recently spoke with shareholders, saying that the company has a mandatory “unconscious bias” training. Nadella also acknowledged that the company is “not where we want to be” in terms of hiring diversity.
Instagram user ivanmoen was one of a few attendees who posted photos and video of the scantily-clad women at the party.
Party attendee Kamina Vincent also took to Twitter to note that the men in the crowd appeared to be having a great time. Kamina added that she plans to complain to Microsoft about the GDC party.
Kamina wrote, “Making a formal complaint tomorrow. I will not stand for this. I’m trying to encourage women into the industry then this happens.”
Microsoft’s Xbox marketing lead Aaron Greenburg responded to the photos on Twitter, writing, “Very disappointed to see this, going to follow up with team.” Game developer Brianna Wu was quick to tell Greenburg that it’s not the first time she saw this kind of treatment at a party.
— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) March 18, 2016
Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Spencer issued a full apology for the company’s decision to have scantily-clad women dancers at the party. Spencer issued a statement to Business Insider, writing that the party’s entertainment “was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated.” He added, “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.”
Spencer added that the event “represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was not consistent or aligned to our values.” The women were hired for the party by Microsoft, not the venue.