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Activision blames Microsoft acquisition for failure to hire another woman to its board

UPDATE: Plans for two more women to join as board members.

UPDATE 22/4/22: Activision Blizzard will add another two women as board members, Axios has reported.

The move will double the number of women on Activision's board to four. Eight men are currently board members, though two are due to stand down this year.

Lulu Cheng Meservey, currently an exec at newsletter firm Substack, will join the Activision Board immediately. Kerry Carr, currently at Bacardi and previously at Disney, is expected to join later in 2022.

Activision's board - which has remained largely unchanged for the past decade - has been criticised for supporting the company's increasingly embattled CEO Bobby Kotick. The company had also faced pressure to promote at least another woman to its board to comply with California state law - more on that below.

ORIGINAL STORY 3/4/22: The state of California says that, by law, companies with boards consisting of six people or more must have at least three women serving on them. Activision's board exceeds this number, and yet it failed to introduce a third women in 2021.

Activision has stated that the reason for this failure is due to its planned acquisition by Microsoft complicating matters.

"Since the Company's current directors would cease to continue to serve on our Board of Directors upon consummation of our proposed transaction with Microsoft, we were unable to conclude the process in 2021", Activision says (via Axios).

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The company goes on to say, "We will be continuing our efforts to appoint a new female director".

However, how much more of a complication Microsoft's planned acquisition really added is questionable, as these laws were first put in place in 2019.

Activision has been at the centre of numerous allegations in recent months, with many sharing their stories of workplace harassment and sexual misconduct.

A Wall Street Journal report in November revealed that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick had known all about the allegations of sexual misconduct and mistreatment of female employees across many parts of the company "for years". And yet, despite this knowledge, Kotick failed to tell the board of directors and executives everything he knew.

Following this report, Activision's board released a statement saying it "remains confident" in Kotick's "leadership, commitment and ability".

However, just a mere three days after WSJ's damming report, Microsoft began talks to purchase Activision. Then, in January 2022, Microsoft officially announced its plans to buy Activision Blizzard, with Kotick expected to leave the company when this deal is finalised.

These ongoing headlines surrounding toxicity in the gaming industry have led many to call out for change.

At DICE 2022, Xbox boss Phil Spencer and EA exec Laura Miele both addressed their desire to see improvements in the workplace.

During his acceptance speech for his Lifetime achievement award, Spencer said: "We have a responsibility to everyone in this business. We have a responsibility to society. And we have a responsibility to ourselves".

"Our responsibility is simple: do everything possible to ensure that this entire industry is about treating every single person with dignity and respect".

Meanwhile, Miele took it a step further, and called for industry leaders to be held accountable for their actions. Miele stated that those who "fall short of basic standards must go", and that those in the gaming industry have a right to "fair and safe work environments, at the very least".

"This is just basic table stakes," Miele concluded.