Roblox Corp.'s efforts at promoting a diverse workforce aren't going far enough—and a series of microaggressions and perceived lack of interest in diversity from upper management may be driving some workers from the company.
That's what current and former employees of the company behind Roblox told Bloomberg News in conversations about the company's diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. Though said report lacks any high-profile accusations like those seen in previous allegations against Riot Games and Activision Blizzard, it does shine a light on the fact that until recently, the company may not have been proactively pursuing a diverse workforce.
The allegations of demeaning comments made toward women and employees of color at Roblox occurred against the background of a massive hiring push from 2020 to 2022. According to Bloomberg, the company capitalized on a pandemic-driven spike of interest in Roblox and grew from 830 full-time employees to 2,100 at the end of 2022.
But in that time period, the company reportedly implemented few practices that would encourage workplace diversity.
Roblox Corp.'s lack of diversity was allegedly grounded in its hiring practices
Symptoms of Roblox's lack of interest in diverse hiring were reportedly visible across different parts of the company. Former recruiter Brandon Davis told Bloomberg that the company made "little effort" to hire diverse candidates, in contrast to his experience at other tech companies like Meta.
Davis claimed that during his time at the company, there were not enough Black employees to form a hypothetical "Black at Roblox" advocacy group.
When different employees raised this topic in different contexts, they were apparently greeted by comments like those from co-founder and CEO David Baszucki, who said that the company has a "very high bar" for hiring. Such comments could be extrapolated to mean that candidates from underrepresented demographics aren't being hired merely because they don't meet that high bar.
During a workplace gathering celebrating International Women's Day, an unnamed vice president of the company told a group of staffers that he was currently working on hiring women who could eventually become managers—but wondered aloud if it "counted" that they were "all yellow" (a phrase usually used to demean East Asians).
Roblox spokesperson vice president of global communications Desiree Fish told Bloomberg that this incident was reported to human resources, which investigated the event. The vice president was reportedly disciplined, offered coaching, and apologized for their comment. One former employee told Bloomberg that they accepted "tens of thousands of dollars in severance pay" in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement and departed the company after this and other alleged incidents.
Employees speaking to Bloomberg described a number of other incidents where they were allegedly discouraged from discussing a lack of diversity at the company. Four women reported being told they were "emotional" or "aggressive" in annual reviews. Bloomberg also reviewed screenshots taken from anonymous internal chat application Blind where employees allegedly referred to the company's head of people and culture as an "ape."
The insult has a long history of being used to demean people of color from different backgrounds.
Are the makers of Roblox changing their hiring practices?
Roblox Corp. provided an array of responses to Bloomberg's queries on this story, and provided data indicating that the company is trying to improve diversity in the workplace. Fish told Bloomberg that the company believes in "the value of having a diverse and inclusive workplace to support our mission of connecting a billion people with optimism and civility."
Fish added that Roblox has an "unbiased system" for assessing and hiring new employees. This system does not set targets for the company's demographic makeup. The company's annual review process was apparently updated "over two years ago" to include an "equitable performance-evaluation program" to ensure fairness and consistency in annual reviews.
From 2020 to 2023, the percentage of women working at Roblox increased from 24 to 27 percent, and the number of women working at the director-or-above level grew from 22 to 30 percent. The percentage of white employees declined from 43 percent to 36 percent in the same time period.
Said numbers roughly align with the demographics reported by Game Developer Conference's 2023 State of the Industry Report, but as Bloomberg notes, do lag behind the employee demographics of Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft.
Roblox's struggles with diversity don't take place in a vacuum. The company has also faced pressure over concerns of user safety on Roblox, which cover a wide range of concerns ranging from exploitation of underage creators to allegations of harassment and abuse among players and creators.
Game Developer has reached out to Roblox Corp. for comment on this story and will update it when one arrives.
Update: A Roblox Corp. spokesperson told Game Developer that the company "does not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind," and that safety and civility are "foundational" to the company's platform and workplace.
"We are committed to treating all employees fairly, and we have many touchpoints for employees to provide feedback, including confidentially," the spokesperson said. "If even one employee feels unsupported or unfairly treated at our company, that is one too many. We have structures in place, including an anonymous reporting system, to ensure people are being treated equitably, and to swiftly address any concerns that are raised."
"We strive to create an inclusive workplace where everyone is respected and every voice is valued. We have a policy that prohibits retaliation against anyone who raises a good-faith concern about possible violations of company policy or participates in an investigation."
The spokesperson referred us to a blog posted recently by Baszucki, where the CEO explains the company's plan to recruit and retain "an expansive, diverse employee base."Game Developer and GDC are sibling organizations under Informa Tech.