Activision has hired Julie Hodges, formerly the senior vice president of corporate HR and compensation, benefits, and talent acquisition at The Walt Disney Company, as its new chief people officer. Hodges, who will replace Activision's current CPO Claudine Naughton, “will lead all aspects of human resources,” ranging from talent acquisition and compensation to “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
“I can't think of a better person to join our team and help lead our ongoing commitment to an inclusive workplace,” Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in the announcement. “Julie is the seasoned leader we need to ensure we are the most inspiring, equitable and emulated entertainment company in the world.”
Hodges, who spent 32 years at Disney, leaned into similar themes in her own statement, emphasizing the need to “welcome all perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.”
“A workforce where everyone feels valued is critical to the success of our business, as is a trusting, engaging and safe environment that encourages creativity and innovation and in which all employees can thrive,” she said. “It takes a collective effort to do this, and I’m looking forward to ensuring that we support the diversity of our talent to bring our people together and continue creating amazing entertainment.”
Activision has good reason to make its diversity and inclusivity efforts as visible as possible. In July, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination, sexual harassment, and a “frat boy” culture at the studio. Executives initially pushed back, but quickly adopted a more conciliatory approach. Many employees seemed unmoved, however: A walkout that took place a week after the DFEH lawsuit was filed attracted messages of support from across the industry, particularly Ubisoft, which is struggling with workplace abuse issues of its own.
A rep told Stephen Totilo of Axios Gaming that Naughton's departure is unrelated to the lawsuit, but plenty of others have been ousted because of it, including Blizzard president J Allen Brack, Diablo 4 game director Louis Barriga, lead level designer Jesse McCree, and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft. Blizzard has also removed in-game character names referencing the trio from Overwatch and World of Warcraft.
The DFEH lawsuit alleges that complaints about pay discrimination and harassment went unaddressed by Blizzard HR, and that the department was “not held in high regard” or trusted by employees. In August, Activision Blizzard's HR department was accused of shredding documents relating to the abuse allegations, and earlier today, a new complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleged that Activision Blizzard is committing labor violations, including intimidating, surveilling, and interrogating employees, in order to discourage employees from organizing and discussing workplace conditions.