'Too emotional' | 'Women denied promotions' and shocking gender claims at Sony's PlayStation biz

'Women denied promotions' and shocking gender claims at Sony's PlayStation biz

Consumer electronics giant Sony is facing a lawsuit at its video game brand, alleging incidents of gender discrimination such as denying women promotions and paying them less than male counterparts in similar roles.

First reported by Axios, the lawsuit has been filed in the USA against the company’s subsidiary Sony Interactive Entertainment (which produces the PlayStation console and its video games). It alleged that “Sony tolerates and cultivates a work environment that discriminates against female employees”.

The lawsuit against Sony has been brought on behalf of Emma Majo, a former IT security analyst at the firm.

Court documents describe Majo’s experience as a female employee at Sony from 2015 to 2021. The papers allege she was "continually denied an answer about how to get a promotion and claims that she was demoted because of her inquiries about it."

She also claims that managers made "gender-biased comments about female workers” such as implying females were more “emotional” and “less professional” than male employees.

Majo also claims she submitted a signed statement to Sony that addressed the company’s supposed gender bias in 2021, but was sacked “soon after,” due to the closure of a department that Majo says she wasn’t actually employed in.

Instead, Majo argues that she was wrongfully terminated “because she is female and because she spoke up about discrimination against females.”

The accusations come just days after the company condemned a rival video game maker’s response to accusations of toxic culture.

The Verge reported how PlayStation boss Jim Ryan sent out an email to employees, speaking out against Activision Blizzard, which makes huge titles such as Candy Crush, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

The embattled firm is also facing a similar lawsuit in California, involving multiple allegations of sexual harassment, unequal pay and inappropriate behaviour lodged by former employees.

According to The Verge, in a company-wide notice, Ryan stated that he was “disheartened and frankly stunned to read” that Activision Blizzard “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.”

Sony did not respond to requests for comment from Axios or The Verge.

Gender issues for HR to solve

While the allegations levelled at Sony and PlayStation involve US workers, the central HR issues can be seen across UK workforces as research has found.

For example, recent data found that eight in ten of the UK’s most popular job roles have a gender pay gap in favour of men.

This is according to CIPHR, which has reviewed the latest stats from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) regarding men’s and women’s median hourly rates of pay to find out which occupations, industries and geographical locations have the widest and smallest gender pay gaps in 2021.

The ONS website explained that the gender pay gap is “calculated as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of men’s average hourly earnings (excluding overtime)”.

Why gender equality is important to HR

Shazia Shah, Senior Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, previously told HR Grapevine that gender diversity is crucial for all organisations.

She said: “Ensuring that there is equal representation of women in the workplace has positive effects for all businesses.”

Shah’s thinking is backed by stats from Gallup which found that employers with above-average gender diversity and levels of employee engagement outperform firms with below-average diversity and engagement by 46% to 58%, as was reported on by Fast Company.

She continued: “Focusing on gender diversity can allow organisations to gain insight into different perspectives, allowing them to employ the most accomplished staff for their business needs, as they have a wider talent pool.

“Having a more inclusive culture in the workplace boosts morale and opportunity and is also known to improve staff retention.

“The benefits are passed on to customers and improves recruitment and reputation. Ultimately this is also linked to increased profitability for the business.”

This is supported by 2019 analysis from McKinsey which found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above average profits than organisations in the fourth quartile.

What can HR do to improve gender equality?

Shah went on to explain that there are various ways to boost gender diversity in the workplace including using skills-based assessments and structured interviews when hiring.

“Employers should also remove the gender pay gap internally within their company, which measures the difference in average earnings between male and female employees, so that job roles and salaries are equal.

“Another way to improve gender equality in the workplace is by offering a mentoring scheme which can be invaluable in helping an employee progress in their career. There should also be a real focus on making work-life balance a priority in the organisation, both for men and women,” she added.

Company culture

Shah concluded: “Company culture is key in underpinning the basis of behaviour at all levels within the company and employers should ensure that internally, they are sponsoring and promoting diversity groups and initiatives to allow for greater inclusion and involvement from all employees.”

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