In a very smart move, Microsoft hired women in extremely tiny Catholic schoolgirl outfits to dance at their official afterparty in San Francisco during this week’s Game Developer Conference. People are so thrilled!
GDC is a massive four-day event, and women’s inclusion in tech and gaming is, as you may have heard, kind of a hot topic right now. Microsoft owns Xbox. So by all means, why wouldn’t you hire women in highly sexualized outfits to appear at your industry event?
Partygoer Kamina Vincent, a producer at an Australian games studio, tells Jezebel via email that when she arrived, the women were “immediately noticeable,” in that no one else was dressed like an erotically-awakened Catholic schoolgirl:
They were immediately noticeable from their outfits because they seemed dressed completely differently to everyone else for the event, wearing a cleavage enhancing crop top and short miniskirt. She introduced herself and asked if we were having fun. I asked what her role was at the party. She told me that they had been hired to speak with attendees and encourage them to the dance floor. As I continued my questions about her presence and role at the party she quickly excused herself from the conversation and joined a group of men on a nearby sofa. It was a conversation that left me feeling very uncomfortable and I chose this moment to leave the party. The men I saw interact with these women seemed to be enjoying the attention, happily chatting and taking posed photos with them. I did speak with several women after deciding to leave the party and their views were all consistent with mine.
Vincent tweeted (and later deleted, because she hadn’t gotten their consent) photos of the women. She also left the party fairly quickly: “Decisions like these reinforce that women are decoration instead of a part of the industry.”
As Business Insider notes, Microsoft spent this year’s GDC stressing how extremely welcome and equally treated women are:
Microsoft sponsored a “Women in Games” lunch at the same event, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently told shareholders at its annual meeting that the company now has mandatory “unconscious bias” training and acknowledged that it was “not where we want to be” in terms of hiring diversity.
Other people in the industry are also, er, not that impressed:
The head of Microsoft’s Xbox Games Marketing was also surprised and “disappointed,” he said on Twitter.
Game developer and frequent Gamergate target Brianna Wu, who heads the studio Giant Spacekat, tells Jezebel that Microsoft has essentially undermined their own work on the issue of inclusion.
“Microsoft is doing so many things right on this issue,” she says. “They instituted mandatory unconscious bias training this year. Their Hololens team has a ton of extremely skilled women engineers. They are working hard to be part of the solution. This undermines all that great work. I’d like to see accountability from the Xbox marketing team.”
The issue, Wu adds, is obviously not the women themselves. “The problem is not the women. I am a sex-positive feminist and so are most women in the game industry,” she says. “They are just trying to make a living. The issue is, this is wildly inappropriate at a professional networking event.”