In a message shared with Kotaku on Oct. 2, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot updated employees about a recent survey on discrimination, misconduct, and other systemic issues across the game development company’s studios. The survey found that 25% of anonymous respondents reported witnessing or experiencing misconduct.
According to Ubisoft, the survey was conducted by an independent research firm. A glaring one in five respondents expressed not feeling “fully respected or safe in the work environment.” Non-binary employees were 43% more likely than men to experience, witness, or hear about discrimination, making them the demographic most vulnerable to harassment at the company. (At least in terms of the metrics the company has right now, for Guillemot has said that the company is exploring other metrics to measure the progress of inclusivity and change.) By comparison, women at Ubisoft were around 30% more likely than men to experience the same.
The message, shared with the outlet by Ubisoft PR, indicates “only 66% of respondents who reported an incident felt they had received the support they needed.”
“The audit also highlights a lack of sensitivity and commitment from management on all matters of diversity, inclusion and respect,” says Guillemot. “Therefore, we must better support our managers so that they are exemplary and become champions of these changes throughout the organization.”
The message lists measures like bonuses for meeting diversity objectives and training sessions for cultural sensitivity — but, as reporter Ethan Gach notes, there is “nothing that would directly impact the power-imbalance between managers and those who report to them when it comes to speaking up about problematic behavior.” Additionally, there is evidence that cultural sensitivity training can change attitudes but is overall poorly effective at changing behavior. A half-day, day-long, or several days-long meeting cannot undo underlying racism, misogyny, and bigotry. It can, however, as Slate’s Brian Palmer notes, function as a legal and public relations cover for a company.
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Kotaku says the message includes a mention of a new “review committee” that will oversee Ubisoft’s content and product marketing to ensure it’s “aligned with our values of respect and fairness.” This is incredibly vague. One has to wonder what the company’s CEO means by this considering the rampant abuse of power that has occurred at the company for many years. Additionally, you also have to wonder what “fairness” constitutes — does it include linking the Black Lives Matter movement to a terrorist group?
At the very least, this “review committee” should be the radical opposite of Ubisoft’s editorial department, which oversees the creative decisions across all of the company’s global studios and is currently composed entirely of white men. Several of the men in that committee have been investigated and suspended for allegations of misconduct.
Gach notes this message continues Ubisoft’s well-documented trend of the Friday news dump, which is a phrase used to describe when negative news or documents are released on a Friday afternoon to avoid media scrutiny. But Ubisoft has had several months’ worth of almost nonstop controversy, so this is ultimately neither a heartening nor an effective move on its executives’ behalf.