Amongst the latest wave of troubling revelations to come out of Activision Blizzard, the Wall Street Journal reports that former exec Jennifer Oneal’s incredibly brief stint as co-head of Blizzard ended due to her being “tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against.”
The WSJ’s explosive reporting revealed that many allegations of inappropriate behaviour were previously known about by CEO Bobby Kotick, and that Oneal emailed a member of Activision’s legal team to say “it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.”
Oneal, who is Asian-American and gay, was appointed as co-lead of Blizzard in August this year, after J. Allen Brack’s resignation. Brack euphemistically “stepped down” during a previous raft of allegations made against the publisher, and was replaced by Oneal alongside Mike Ybarra. Less than two months later, in early November, Oneal announced her decision to resign, at the time explaining she was to “transition to a new position before departing ABK at the end of the year.” She said this was “not without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite,” adding that, “This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect.”
However, the WSJ reports they’ve seen emails in which Oneal “professed a lack of faith in Activision’s leadership to turn the culture around.”
The email revealed that she had been sexually harassed at the company earlier in her career. It also revealed that she was allegedly being paid less than Ybarra. “I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against,” the WSJ says she wrote.
The article also describes a 2007 party Oneal attended, along with Kotick, in which “scantily clad women danced on stripper poles,” while a DJ “encouraged female attendees to drink more so the men would have a better time.” The WSJ adds that a representative for Kotick claims he “didn’t remember attending such a party,” which might not be a great way to phrase things given the circumstances.
The WSJ reporting also alleges that Kotick already knew about sexual assault allegations at the company, and that the CEO was himself involved in harassment incidents against female workers.
Updated: 10/19/21, 11.05 a.m. ET: Since this story first emerged, following on from the allegation that Oneal was paid less than her co-lead Mike Ybarra, Activision Blizzard representatives told Kotaku that Oneal was “offered equivalent compensation for the co-lead role.” When Kotaku sought further clarity on whether this occurred initially, or after she intimated her desire to quit, we heard nothing back.
IGN reports they have seen internal emails and Slack messages sent by both Ybarra and Oneal, in which the former claims the disparity was only a result of their previous contracts. They quote Ybarra as saying, “The first time both Jen and I were offered a new contract, it was the same across both of us for the new co-leader of Blizzard roles, so our compensation was going to be the same.”
However, Oneal then apparently responded in no uncertain terms that this was untrue, and that equal pay was never offered until after she had voiced her intention to resign. IGN says she went on to say (her own emphasis),
When Mike and I were placed in the same co-lead role, we went into the role with our previous compensation, which was not equivalent. It remained that way for some time well after we made multiple rejected requests to change it to parity. While the company informed me before I tendered my resignation that they were working on a new proposal, we were made equivalent offers only after I tendered that resignation.