Girls Who Code has ended its longstanding partnership with Activision Blizzard following the revelations of sexual harassment and workplace abuse that have arisen since the state of California filed a lawsuit against the company on July 21, 2021. Girls Who Code has been working with Activision Blizzard to put on its Summer Immersion Program since 2018. This appears to have finally come to an end.
Girls Who Code is an advocacy group that seeks to close the widening gender gap in the technology industry. The organization has coordinated courses and events which have served over 450,000 girls ever since it was founded in 2012. They espouse “diversity, equity, and inclusion” while focusing their work “not only on gender diversity but also on young women who are historically underrepresented in computer science fields”. Acknowledging the “intersections of race/ ethnicity, gender identity and expression, class, sexual orientation, ability, age, national origin, and religious/ spiritual identities”, Girls Who Code accepts into its programs “anyone who identifies as female regardless of assignment at birth” as well as “people who identify as non-binary or gender nonconforming and want to be in a female-identified environment”.
The organization said in a statement about ending its partnership with Activision Blizzard that its priority “has and always will be to stand up for women and other underrepresented groups in tech and ensure that they are given the support and stability they need to actively thrive as they pursue a career in computer science”. The statement goes on to say that all of the recent news about Activision Blizzard “proves that our priorities are fundamentally misaligned” and that “we cannot in good conscience continue to work with a company that is so antithetical to our own values”. Girls Who Code declares that it stands in solidarity with the employees at Activision Blizzard who “bravely came forward about their experiences” and hopes that all of them “see the justice and accountability they richly deserve”.
“In choosing our partners, we do so knowing that the tech industry is often unwelcoming to the very communities we are trying to serve. That’s why we only work with those who are willing to have tough discussions about how systemic sexism, racism, discrimination, and harassment have impacted company practices and work culture. We hold our partners accountable when they fall short and work with them to bring meaningful solutions to the table. However, there is a line and the allegations against Activision have crossed that line”.
The statement from Girls Who Code speaks volumes about how bad conditions must be at Activision Blizzard. While the advocacy group has partnered with Activision Blizzard, they have also partnered with Riot Games and Ubisoft. These companies have both been saddled with allegations of sexual harassment and workplace abuse in the past. But the organization still has them listed as partners. Activision Blizzard on the other hand is nowhere to be found on the list.
Lying at the center of the scandal around Activision Blizzard is Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick. The statement from Girls Who Code follows an employee petition calling on him to “remove himself as CEO of Activision Blizzard'' before asking that “shareholders be allowed to select the new CEO without the input of Bobby who we are aware owns a substantial portion of the voting rights of the shareholders”. There has been a public petition to the same effect. Bobby Kotick has been sitting in the hot seat ever since the news broke on November 16 that he knew about the sexual harassment and workplace abuse at Activision Blizzard without doing anything to stop the bahavior. This prompted over 100 employees to walk off the job in protest and many small shareholders to call for his removal. The board of directors and the biggest shareholders however still stand behind him.
Girls Who Code joins a growing list of organizations that have severed their ties with Activision Blizzard over the past few months. There have even been indications that Microsoft and Sony are both ready to reconsider their affiliations to the company in light of the scandal around Bobby Kotick.
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