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Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick took some time during the company’s analyst call Monday to spell out the company’s efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Diversity rarely comes up during Wall Street analyst calls for video game companies, as the topics usually focus on company financials. But it did this week, thanks to the explosive news on July 21 that one of the industry’s largest companies, Activision Blizzard, was hit with a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the State of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
In his opening remarks during the first fiscal quarter (second calendar quarter) analyst call, Zelnick said, “I’m also proud that we deepened our focus on corporate responsibility, and we recently made several key hires to lead our efforts regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.”
It reminded me that Take-Two used its time at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) online trade event this year to hold a panel on diversity. But I can’t say I ever remember diversity coming up during a Wall Street analyst call in the past.
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An analyst asked about the company’s views on diversity during the call.
“Look, our most important asset here is our people, because they create everything that we’re able to bring to consumers,” Zelnick said. “We are a business of intellectual property. And our strategy, our stated strategy, has always been to be the most creative, the most innovative and most efficient company in the business. Diversity is key to our success, we need to have a diverse perspective and diverse voices in order to in order to create that quality. So it starts at the top.”
He noted the company’s board of directors is diverse with respect to gender, race, and skill sets. He said the management team is “exceedingly diverse” from a gender perspective.
“Our voices as a result are diverse. But we’re not stopping there,” Zelnick said. “We’re also reaching into the community to create a broader, more diverse pool from which we can refer and our competitors can recruit going forward. So we work together on company-sponsored service projects and the communities in which we operate. We encourage individual volunteerism and giving through our philanthropic and matching donation programs.”
He said the company supports organizations that are focused on enhancing diversity. Zelnick said the company increases the candidate pool through scholarships, contributions to organizations providing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) opportunities to children in underserved communities, and delivering interview training and career counseling to young adults.
“In many instances, we’re also focused on young females as well. So we’re trying to do the right thing from the top of the company, at the board level, to the management team, to even creating a pool from which we can recruit a long time into the future. And even so I’m sure there’s much more that we can do,” Zelnick said.
Another analyst asked how the company might redouble its efforts.
“Common decency is of paramount importance to everyone here. And specifically, it’s highly important to me and has been for the 14 years that we’ve been around. This is nothing new for us,” he said. “The culture of the company is well known and well known internally and reasonably well known externally. All that said, we can always do better. And I think we’re we’re known to be people who always want to be doing better and never want to rest on our laurels.”
Zelnick said that fostering an appropriate environment isn’t a single set of actions or one one day in the news cycle.
“We think it’s a constant process of introspection and improvement,” he said. “We’ll listen to our colleagues. And we’ll work in this area over time. But I want to be very specific because you asked the question about what we do around here and what we’ve always done. The first is, and I’ll say it as black-and-white as I can. We will not tolerate harassment or discrimination, or bad behavior of any kind we never have. We set those expectations when people come on board here through our code of conduct, and our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, all of which our colleagues are required to review and sign when they’re hired.”
He added, “All of our colleagues take anti-harassment training at hire and bi-annually after that. And we make it clear through the training and through our policy that if anyone does experience any any inappropriate contact, there are multiple avenues to report that and they’ll never be retaliated against for doing so.”
He said there are options in the management chain to complain to anyone in HR or file an anonymous complaint by phone or online through the company’s third-party hotline and website reporting. He said the company has a director of diversity and inclusion and that remit includes developing a global diversity and inclusion strategy.
He said the company has multiple employee resource groups inside the company.
“Is there more we could do? I’m certain there is. Do we feel like we’re in a pretty good place? We’re grateful that we do feel that way right now. In terms of retention, our turnover rate is is roughly half of the industry’s. That’s that’s been true for about the past 18 months. There have been times when it’s been about 70% of industry levels. [Turnover] has been trending down at a time when I think in general turnovers trending up. So we feel good about that. And that’s another measure of how we’re doing.”
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