A image announcing Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard.

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Microsoft Initiates Review of Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination Policies

January 18, 2022

By: Brian Renadette

 
 

Microsoft has recently announced that it's taking a look at its own sexual harassment and discrimination policies. Having just announced that it will be buying Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion, this recent bit of news has taken on a whole new light.

In a document released last Thursday, the Microsoft Board announced this review as part of an advisory shareholder resolution that was part of the 2021 Annual Shareholders Meeting. This review will lead to a publicly available transparency report that will assess how effective Microsoft's policies and training were, including a review of concerns raised by employees in 2019 and steps taken to respond to those concerns. In addition, the report will include data on sexual harassment cases and their resolution, assess how the aggressors in those cases were held accountable, and bring in the law firm Arent Fox to conduct the review. "The firm is experienced in these matters and has not previously been involved in representing Microsoft in employment matters, nor has it done a significant amount of work for the company in the past," the paper says. This paper was released before today's bombshell announcement, but knowing that Microsoft will soon have Activision Blizzard under its wing, one can't help but imagine that this review has some relation to the acquisition.

 

The Activision Blizzard office

Speaking of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and several others took part in a press meeting on Microsoft Teams this morning. During this meeting, Nadella said that the culture at Microsoft and its subsidiaries is his #1 priority. "It requires consistency, commitment, and leadership that not only talks the talk but walks the walk. That's why we believe it's important that AB drives forward with its cultural changes." Before having Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick step on, Nadella also cites Kotick's commitment to real change, although it's debatable exactly how committed he actually is to make things better. It's possible that Nadella is referring to a recent news story by the Wall Street Journal reporting that Kotick had fired or pushed out more than three dozen employees and disciplined about 40 others since last July.

 
 

The Activision Blizzard acquisition will close at the during fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1, 2022.

Activision Blizzard has been heavily criticized over allegations of toxic workplace culture and sexual harassment. These criticisms have come from several U.S. state treasurers, the heads of both PlayStation and Xbox, and a group of activist shareholders, among many others. The company is also embroiled in lawsuits, unionization disputes with staff, and conflicts with government agencies.