In light of multiple reported instances of abuse, discrimination, assault, and racism within the company, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot promised that the company would create a new Head of Diversity and Inclusion as one part of a series of changes intended to reform and improve the publisher/developer's company culture. Today, that position's been filled.
Raashi Sikka, formerly the Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Uber for its Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific operations, will begin as Ubisoft's first-ever Vice President of Global Diversity & Inclusion on Feb. 1, 2021. Sikka will report directly to Guillemot and is tasked with "design and implementation of various programs that seek to promote diversity and equity amongst Ubisoft's employees globally."
Though her role will be "flexible and broad" and is thus likely to address many of the various troubling trends within Ubisoft that surfaced over the past year—from misconduct to sexist Assassin's Creed editorial decisions—Sikka will not be alone in working toward improvements for workers at the company. In July, when Guillemot announced the creation of Sikka's new role, he also appointed Lidwine Sauer (of Ubisoft's Strategic Innovations Lab) as a new Head of Workplace Culture.
"A primary focus coming in will be to carefully listen to all voices that want to participate in improving Ubisoft's values and culture," Sikka says in the press release announcing her hiring. "I will count on the support of every Ubisoft team member to move the company forward. Video games have the power to promote values of diversity and inclusion. I hope my work will help reinforce this and ensure the content created at Ubisoft is reflective of the different backgrounds, cultures, identities and stories the teams bring to work each day."
With the broader tech industry struggling as much if not more with diversity and treatment of its workers, Sikka's years of experience at Uber have likely prepared her well to join Ubisoft during this transitional moment. In 2017, a blog post on sexist practices at Uber published by engineer Susan Fowler sparked criticism that quickly led to the resignation of founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. Uber settled an ensuing gender discrimination charge for $4.4 million in compensation to affected employees last year. Uber has also been widely criticized for mistreatment experienced by its drivers, who the company fights to keep classified as independent contractors with fewer worker protections. This year, Uber's own Chief Diversity Officer called the company out for letting its percentage of Black employees fall from 9.3% to 7.5%.
Given the secretive nature of triple-A game creation and the long development cycles associated with it, it may be some time before we start to see any appreciable changes in Ubisoft's editorial practices—i.e., ones evident in the content of the games themselves. As for the lived experience of working at Ubisoft, it'll be difficult to gauge from the outside whether the efforts led by Sikka and others are working. If there are fewer abrupt exits and public oustings next year, that might tentatively be taken as a sign of progress.