Activision Blizzard Reject Shareholder Diversity Hiring Proposal; Cites Impeding Hiring Talent and being Superfluous – Niche Gamer

Activision Blizzard have rejected a proposal by shareholders that would increase diversity in job candidate pools, as it would hinder their ability to hire talented individuals and would be superfluous.

Vice had previously reported on January 27th that the video game holding company had rejected by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO) in January 2021. This proposal was intended for both Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts (EA); both companies the AFL-CIO are shareholders of.

The reported policy proposal was sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), proposing they adopt policies mandating qualified women and people of color in the initial pool of candidates for job positions. This was compared to the NFL’s Rooney Rule, added in 2003.

The AFL-CIO claimed the policy would improve diversity at the companies, which in turn would enhance the company’s performance in the long term.

“[The policy will improve] 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.”

“The purpose of the requested Diverse Candidate Search Policy is to assure that the Company’s recruitment pools for external hires are adequately diverse. A diverse workforce at all levels of a company can enhance long-term company performance.”

The proposal letters were obtained by Vice’s Motherboard, along with a reply by Activision Blizzard lawyers. They stated they already had such a proposal in place for director and CEO nominee positions, and implementing this company wide would hinder their ability to competitively hire talented people.

Further, they argued the proposal would violate guidance of the SEC, as it aims to significantly “micromanage” Activision Blizzard.

“While the Company has implemented a Rooney Rule policy as envisioned [for director and CEO nominees], 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.”

[…] “The Proposal leaves no room for the Company’s management or Board of Directors to exercise discretion in how new hire decisions are structured.”

Speaking to Vice, a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard stated that despite this reply, they valued diversity at the company. In addition, they already had a series of initiatives and scholarship programs for exactly that purpose.

“Our talent is the lifeblood of Activision Blizzard. 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.”

“We have put in place a series of new programs like our scholarship programs with the United Negro College Fund and the Equal Justice Initiative,” the spokesperson continued. “These high school scholarship funds help develop the best and brightest future diverse talent, setting them up with mentors and internships designed to ensure earlier success in their careers.”

An EA spokesperson told Vice that they are “in regular conversations with our shareholders and we value the feedback we receive. In accordance with our standard procedures, EA’s Board of Directors will consider the stockholder proposal. The Board is committed to maintaining hiring practices that promote inclusion and diversity at EA.”

Brandon Rees, the director of investments at the AFL-CIO, explained to Vice that typically shareholders will file a proposal and discuss the matter with the company. The proposal can be withdrawn if the company agrees to  take measures to resolve what the proposal wishes to implement. If it is rejected, the shareholders would then vote to implement the proposal.

On January 28th, Activision Blizzard president Daniel Alegre posted a public statement on the Activision Blizzard website entitled “Building an Equitable, Inclusive, and Diverse Activison Blizzard Community.” 

Therein, Alegre explained he joined the company to not only “help connect people around the world through epic games;” but was inspired by CEO Bobby Kotick’s “commitment to diversity across our global teams, and the opportunity to continue to build a culture of inclusivity.”

Addressing the media coverage of the AFL-CIO’s proposal and wishing to provide clarity and context, Alegre explained how Activision Blizzard already aim to hire with diversity in mind.

“In our current hiring practices across the entire company and for every role, we emphasize and create diverse slates of candidates; our practices naturally allow hiring managers to ensure diversity within each country in which we operate. We don’t need the AFL-CIO proposal to reaffirm what we already do – encourage every hiring manager to consider diverse candidates for every position. We believe in our existing hiring practices, which encourages every hiring manager to seek diverse candidates for every single role. We also ensure any candidate – regardless of backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, races and sexual orientations – is considered for each and every open role. We have and will continue to focus on clear objectives and measurable criteria for diversity within our workforce and are proud of our success. We are unequivocally committed to increasing diversity at all levels throughout Activision Blizzard worldwide.

I want to reiterate that diversity, equity and inclusion will continue to be at the core of our company, our culture and our employee experience. Our commitment begins in the sourcing and recruiting process and is reiterated during onboarding and through alumni status. Our Code of Conduct is acknowledged by all employees – at every level – every year. New Hires are required to take our Way2Play Training and our Equality & Diversity training to ensure employees understand their responsibility.

Today, in fact, we were recognized by the Human Rights Campaign with a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index for LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies and practices for the third year in a row, an achievement worth celebrating.

Our games change stereotypes and bring people together, regardless of race, religion, or cultural values. But, we can only accomplish this if our own talent truly represents the diversity of our nearly 400 million players around the world. We know all companies can do more to encourage diversity, inclusion and equity, but I am proud of our commitment to constant improvement and I am proud of the company wide commitment we all have towards fostering a diverse and equitable workplace. I am here because of this commitment, which is unwavering.”