Microsoft says it ‘must do better’ as it investigates sexual harassment claims

Microsoft is reportedly ignoring complaints of extortion and “belittling behaviour” from female colleagues who believe they have been subject to sexual discrimination working for the megacorp.

According to an in-depth report by Quartz, a 90-page email chain – instigated by a female colleague who believed their career had stalled at the company – shared amongst female Microsoft staff speaks of a litany of alleged misogyny and sexual harassment that Microsoft has failed to investigate even though many events were formally reported to HR and management.

One female Microsoft employee alleged that an employee of a partner company threatened to kill her on a work trip if she did not perform sexual acts. “I raised immediate attention to HR and management,” she wrote. “My male manager told me that ‘it sounded like he was just flirting’ and I should ‘get over it’. HR basically said that since there was no evidence, and this man worked for a partner company and not Microsoft, there was nothing they could do.”

“We did a roundtables with the women when I was in Xbox core [team] & every woman, except for [one], had been called a bitch at work,” added another Microsoft employee. “Before people say this is just an Xbox thing (as I’ve heard that dismissiveness way too many times within Microsoft before) the other [engineering] orgs where my experiences happened were Windows & Azure. This is a Microsoft thing, a common one.”

“As a Microsoft Partner, [I] was asked to sit on someone’s lap twice in one meeting in front of HR and other executives,” added another. “I can assure you that nothing was done. I alone objected and cited Microsoft policy. The person said that he did not have to listen and repeated the request a second time. No one said anything.”

On March 29th, Microsoft’s head of human resources, Kathleen Hogan, responded to the email circulation list saying she had raised the issues with the company’s senior team, and would “personally look into” the allegations.

“I discussed this thread with the [senior leadership team] today. We are appalled and sad to hear about these experiences,” Hogan wrote. “It is very painful to hear these stories and to know that anyone is facing such behavior at Microsoft. We must do better.

“I would like to offer to anyone who has had such demeaning experiences including those who felt were dismissed by management or HR to email me directly. I will personally look into the situation with my team.”

“This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound. The collective anger and frustration is palpable. A wide audience is now listening. And you know what? I’m good with that,” said a Microsoft employee.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has been accused of systemic sexual discrimination; a class-action lawsuit in 2018 brought 238 cases of sexual harassment and discrimination.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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