HomeNewsBlizzard's First Female Lead Steps Down After Three Months

    Blizzard’s First Female Lead Steps Down After Three Months

    Just three months after her appointment to co-lead Blizzard, Jen Oneal has stepped down from her role. 

    Oneal was picked to lead Blizzard alongside Mike Ybarra to take charge of the Diablo and World of Warcraft developer amid sexual harassment and employment-related lawsuits against the company brought on by the state of California. 

    Numerous complaints by current and former staff members alleged a hostile work environment in which male employees behaved inappropriately toward their female colleagues. 

    Following her departure, Ybarra will be the sole lead of the studio effective immediately. She will leave Blizzard entirely at the end of the year. 

    “Effective immediately, Mike Ybarra will lead Blizzard,” Oneal said in a statement. “I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite—I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts. This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well. While I am not totally sure what form that will take, I am excited to embark on a new journey to find out.”

    In a message to the Blizzard community, Oneal wrote:

    Over the last few months, many of us have been taking the time to ask ourselves how we can effect the most positive change in our workplace, in our games, and in our communities. 

    On a macro level, Mike Ybarra and I, along with the rest of Blizzard, have been navigating the important changes we must undertake in order to be known as the creative powerhouse that brought hundreds of millions of players into Azeroth, Sanctuary, and more, all while ensuring our workplace and game communities are truly inclusive, safe, and inviting to all. 

    On a micro level, as I’ve listened to the stories from people all over Blizzard and been inspired by their courage and conviction, I’ve been thinking about the potential of what I can do as an individual to create the most meaningful change. For the last 20 years of my career, I have loved developing games–they are my lifeblood. I also have been fortunate to find my passion and voice in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space along the way.

    Those of you who have played our games will know that sometimes our adventures can keep you on the quest you set out on, but sometimes, a new quest beckons us. 

    As part of Oneal’s move, the leadership at Activision Blizzard will provide a $1 million grant to Women in Games International, a non-profit organization. Oneal, who sits on the board of the organization, says the money will fund “skill-building and mentorship programs.” 

    The grant is separate from the $18 million compensation fund Blizzard agreed to establish in September for employees after it settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

    “Blizzard’s best days are ahead,” Oneal wrote. “I truly believe that. I also am hoping this letter helps you to think about what you can do to make everyone around you—no matter their gender, race, or identity—feel welcome, comfortable, and free to be themselves.”

    “Though we will all miss her greatly, we wish her all the best as we work with her on a plan to make an industry-wide impact through the WIGI grant. I personally want to thank her for her leadership,” said Mike Ybarra in a statement. 

    Publisher at GameTalon.

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