In a recent interview, Xbox head and Microsoft Executive VP of Gaming Phil Spencer discussed the new focus the company is placing on developing black leaders and stated that it was being done in an effort to produce “a more diverse team.”
In an October 3rd interview with Kotaku, wherein the video game news outlet pressed Spencer on Microsoft’s June 2020 declaration that the company’s “actions must reflect the values of our company and be directly informed by the needs of the Black and African American community.”
They asked the Xbox head about the industry’s need for diversity and “Black people’s prominence—or lack thereof—in game studios and in leadership.”
In response to the specific issue of diversity, Spencer replied that “the area where I think we really need to focus more as an industry, including my own team, are, as you said, those visible leaders, because there was a generation where this didn’t happen.”
Turning his attention to white employees, Spencer commented how “as those people move up inside of the organization, you get a lot of people like me,” and noted how Microsoft does not “need more people like me in our organization” going forward, but instead requires a “diverse team.”
“So I’d say, for our focus right now, I think about manager representation,” Spencer asserted.
However, as recorded by Microsoft’s own Global Diversity & Inclusion Report for 2020, black employees make up only 4.7% of the company’s workforce, for a .3% and 1.1% total increase since 2019 and 2016, respectively.
According to Spencer, when it comes to the “make up of our teams,” Microsoft specifically begins their discussions with the questions “What is it? And not just from ‘how are our numbers in terms of representation?,’ but the inclusion factor of our teams? How does it feel to work here? What’s your lived experience?”
In June, former Mixer employee Milan Lee claimed that his time at the now-defunct Microsoft-owned streaming service “was the worst I’ve ever had professionally and it’s due to all the racism,” particularly due to the company’s refusal to take action against a manger who stated that “all the partners are my slaves” and that she was the “slave master.”
“The reason my manager was not penalized and the reason she still has her job today is because she CANNOT be racist,” said Lee, who then explained that he was told that “The reason she CANNOT be racist is because she hired a black person.”
When the topic of Lee’s accusations was inevitably brought up by Kotaku during the interview, Spencer stated that “We have work to do.”
“I have work to do in that,” he continued. “You can look at the Milan Lee situation and the conversations he and I had in June. And, you know, PR won’t love it that I bring those things up in conversation.”
Spencer also shared his opinion that “it’s important that we are forthright and open about the lived experience of everybody on our team”, admitting that “we have work to do in that space.”
As the interview drew to a close, Spencer reaffirmed the company’s dedication to ensuring that the video game industry and culture becomes more diverse and inclusive.
“When you talk also about the representation in our games and in the industry and the role that we have as Microsoft, I think about the fact that we’re at a $1.5 trillion market cap company in the games industry,” he said
Spencer concluded, “We should be a platform for all creators—from creators, different storytellers, from different perspectives, who can help each of us that are playing these games learn through the lived experience of the creators, which we all do every time we play somebody’s games. But I’m definitely starting with our team.”
What do you make of Spencer’s comments?