Main image of article Activision Blizzard Faces Diversity Hiring Controversy

Tech companies make a big deal of their diversity efforts. The largest of them, including Google and Microsoft, issue regular reports that detail their progress in diversifying their workforces. Hiring candidates from all backgrounds, executives assure the public, is a priority.

Which brings us to Activision Blizzard. As reported by ViceKotaku, and other sources, the game-development giant (responsible such huge franchises as “Call of Duty” and “Overwatch”) is resisting a proposal by the AFL-CIO (a federation of union organizations) to boost "workforce diversity by requiring that the initial pool of candidates from which new employees are hired by the Company shall include, but need not be limited to, qualified women and minority candidates." 

"A diverse workforce at all levels of a company can enhance long-term company performance," reads the AFL-CIO’s letter, as reprinted by Vice. The federation is also petitioning Electronic Arts (EA) in addition to Activision Blizzard. 

But Vice also quotes from a letter by one of Activision Blizzard’s attorneys, stating that a diversity proposal like the AFL-CIO’s is unworkable. “Implementing a policy that would extend such an approach to all hiring decisions amounts to an unworkable encroachment on the Company’s ability to run its business and compete for talent in a highly competitive, fast-moving market,” it reportedly read.

When questioned about the AFL-CIO proposal, a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told Vice: “We value the diversity of the Activision Blizzard community and understand that our employees and players come from a wide array of backgrounds. In order to deliver epic and engaging entertainment for a diverse, growing global audience, our workforce must reflect these communities."

Last summer, the company tweeted its support for “all those who stand against racism and inequality” at the height of the racial-inequality protests following the death of George Floyd. It also announced that it would donate $3 million to the United Negro College Fund, Equal Justice Initiative, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow.

As points out, the AFL-CIO has already convinced a number of organizations, including some major banks, to adopt policies aimed at greater diversity in hiring.

However this situation with Activision Blizzard resolves, it just reinforces that the tech industry has a lot of work to do when it comes to diversity and inclusion. And it’s not just hiring: According to the Dice Sentiment Survey, conducted this past summer, 40 percent of technologists said their companies hadn’t made any internal and/or external gestures of support toward diversity movements.