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Microsoft's equality and diversity: Skimpy schoolgirls dancing for nerds at an Xbox party

Console boss apologizes amid PR disaster

Microsoft dancers at GDC
Microsoft's GDC party ... At least one attendee preferred to read from his smartphone

Microsoft's attempts to brand itself as a modern inclusive company were seriously derailed last night. The Xbox giant hired dancers in skimpy schoolgirl outfits for its party at the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Gaming geeks at the bash were greeted by revealing skirts, stockings and cleavage as nimble performers gyrated for attendees on platforms. As a result, some women developers walked out and at least one is making an official complaint to Redmond.

What made the choice of "entertainment" even more surprising was that less than 24 hours before, Microsoft had hosted a Women in Gaming luncheon to discuss how to make the gaming industry even more inclusive to everyone regardless of gender.

Remarkably, the head of Xbox Games marketing at Microsoft Aaron Greenberg seemed to be unaware of who his team had booked for the event. "Very disappointed to see this, going to follow up with team," he said on Twitter on Friday morning.

It's not the first time Microsoft has put its foot in it when it comes to diversity. CEO Satya Nadella was forced to apologize last year when he told attendees at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event that women in the industry should trust karma when it came to getting pay equality rather than demanding fair pay.

To be fair, the company has also done some sterling work in embracing feminism and equality. For six years, Microsoft has published stats on how diverse its workforce is, has fought for LGBT rights, and is actively recruiting autistic applicants for its teams.

However, while tech conference and party organizers have realized that hiring scantily clad women for the pleasure of ogling nerds creates an unwelcome atmosphere for some, the Microsoft Xbox team didn't read the memo.

"At Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was not consistent or aligned to our values. It was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated," Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, told The Register.

"I know we disappointed many people and I’m personally committed to holding ourselves to higher standards. We must ensure that diversity and inclusion are central to our everyday business and core values. We will do better in the future." ®

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