Microsoft held a party with overtly sexist themes at GDC 2016 this week — one that Xbox chief Phil Spencer today called "unequivocally wrong." It's a troubling incident in a long history of sexism at professional conferences and events in the gaming industry, especially considering Microsoft's enormous influence. The party, which showcased women in revealing costumes dancing on podiums, served to alienate several attendees who shared their discomfort and disappointment online.
Spencer quickly denounced and disavowed his company's actions today, stating that the event "represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was not consistent or aligned to our values." He said the behavior "will not be tolerated" and that Microsoft "will do better in the future." It's not clear yet how the company will take corrective action or to what extent — Microsoft declined to comment on next steps as it investigates the matter, and plans to handle the matter internally. But The Verge did obtain an email Spencer sent to his the entire Xbox staff today, which you can read below:
How we show up as an organization is incredibly important to me. We want to build and reflect the culture of team Xbox - internally and externally - a culture that each one of us can represent with pride. An inclusive culture has a direct impact on the products and services we deliver and the perception consumers have of the Xbox brand and our company, as a whole.
It has come to my attention that at Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values. That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. This matter is being handled internally, but let me be very clear - how we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.
It's unfortunate that such events could take place in a week where we worked so hard to engage the many different gaming communities in the exact opposite way. I am personally committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion is central to our everyday business and our core values as a team – inside and outside the company. We need to hold ourselves to higher standards and we will do better in the future.