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Published: August 9, 2021

Written by: Stoyan Todorov

  • Growing controversy over Activision Blizzard’s response to the sexual harassment allegations the company faces have forced changes in executive structure
  • Frances Townsend has stepped down from the position of executive sponsor for company’s King Employee Women’s Network
  • According to reporting, Townsend criticized the allegations and said they were old and taken out of context which prompted a wave of negativity on social media

Activision Blizzard executive sponsor of King Employee Women’s Network Frances Townsend has stepped down from her position after what was considered a poor response to the sexual harassment allegations levied against the company.

FrancesTownsend Pays Price for Previous Comments

Activision Blizzard’s woes continue to pile on as Fran Townsend has been forced to step down from an important position a week after an email she sent arguing that the allegations of mistreatment of women at the workplace have been a distorted interpretation of reality. Townsend has stepped down from her position as executive sponsor of Activision Blizzard King Employee Women’s Network (ABK) in a bid to mitigate some of the damage the company is still trying to contain.

Her comments were followed by an immediate response by ABK employees with over 3,000 signing a letter asking Townsend to resign as she had failed to properly address the issue and because of “the damaging nature of her statement.” Townsend’s words were politely criticized by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick who described the response as “tone deaf” to the actual issue and employees’ needs.

The case has been brought up by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing following a two-year investigation which investors claim was kept under tight wraps by Activision Blizzard, thus negatively impacting their decisions regarding the company’s stock.

Townsend did not hesitate to criticize the DFEH findings, describing them as “out of context stories, old and factually incorrect.” Some of those stories, Townsend argued in an email sent to employees on July 22, were “more than a decade old.”

Executives Who Got It Wrong

She and former Act vision Blizzard president J. Allen Brack both signed off the email that quickly went viral and elicited a strong response from employees and even some fellow executives. In the meantime, social media users called Townsend on her stance after evidence suggested that she had endorsed the concept of whistleblowing in the past, but seemed to oppose it when it affected her company.

The response by Townsend became even more inadequate according to observers after she allegedly blocked Blizzard employees who challenged her comments on social media. Later, Townsend suspended her Twitter handle under a mounting wave of criticism that quickly washed over her account.

Activision Blizzard has tried to address the sexual harassment allegations the best it could, but a slow response and Townsend’s pushback against the matter have created more problems for the company.

For one, Overwatch League has been the one to bear the brunt as State Farm and Coca-Cola have reportedly said that they would reevaluate their relationship with the organization. State Farm discontinue programming for last weekend’s league games and Kellogg Company decided to suspend all relationships while Activision Blizzard works through the issues.

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