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Departing Blizzard co-lead Jen Oneal tells colleagues she was only offered equal pay after resigning

Oneal claims Activision Blizzard only formally offered equal pay "after I tendered that resignation."

Chris Kerr, News Editor

November 17, 2021

4 Min Read
Jen OnealBlizzard Entertainment

Following reports that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick enabled misconduct and harassed women both inside and outside the workplace, new details have emerged that indicate outgoing Blizzard co-lead Jen Oneal was only offered pay parity after tendering her resignation.

In an extensive and damning Wall Street Journal report published yesterday, which contained serious allegations against Kotick, snippets from an email sent by Oneal indicated she chose to leave the U.S. publisher because of her own experiences of harassment and discrimination.

"I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against," she told Activision Blizzard's legal team in the email. "It was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way."

Oneal also claimed that she hadn't been offered the same wage as her fellow Blizzard co-lead, Mike Ybarra, and new details published by IGN offer more insight into that story.

In a series of internal Slack messages seen by IGN, Ybarra indicated that Oneal was indeed on a lower salary, and that he also told management about the need for parity.

"Hello Blizzard, please see the email I sent this morning. I know many leaders plan to meet with their teams throughout the day. This is a difficult time for all of us, myself included. I have been asked and want to make it clear: Jen and I shared with management that we wanted to be paid the same to co-lead Blizzard together," Ybarra wrote.

"As a leader, equality in its broadest sense is something I 100% stand behind. As a team, I share our desire for change and growth. I'm committed to fostering that with all of you to make Blizzard what we all want it to be. I will be sending out a video shortly to all of Blizzard. Thank you and know that I am processing today's news -- and struggling in areas like many of you."

After being quizzed by another employee, who asked why management would deny such a request from its co-leads, Ybarra added that "Jen and I were both on existing contracts. I ran [Battle.net and Online Products] and she ran [Vicarious Visions] so our pay was different. The first time both Jen and I were offered a new contract, it was the same across both of us for the new co-leader of Blizzard roles, so our compensation was going to be the same."

Oneal then clarified further, telling Ybarra that while she didn't want to get "in a debate" on public channels, she was crucially only offered equal pay after tendering her resignation.

"When Mike and I were placed in the same co-lead role, we went into the role with our previous compensation, which was not equivalent. It remained that way for some time well after we made multiple rejected requests to change it to parity," she wrote.

"While the company informed me before I tendered my resignation that they were working on a new proposal, we were made equivalent offers only after I tendered that resignation."

Oneal said she doesn't want there to be any "misunderstanding about when I was offered equivalent compensation," but expressed a desire to continue working at the company "in good faith" before departing at the end of the year.

In the wake of yesterday's damaging report, Activision Blizzard employees staged an impromptu walkout that saw over 150 staffers down tools over both the allegations themselves and the company's response, which saw the Activision Blizzard board of directors publicly back Kotick within hours of the report being published.

On-site at the walkout, one Blizzard employee told Game Developer that change had to come from the top-down, echoing the sentiments of pro-worker group A Better ABK, who called for Kotick's resignation after the allegations were made public.

"If it's not coming from the top-down, how's that going to work [for us]?," said Jessica Gonzalez, senior test analyst at Blizzard and one of the organizers behind the walkout. "If you're not going to hold yourself accountable, your employees will hold you accountable for the things that you say and commit to doing."

Activision Blizzard, meanwhile, has branded Wall Street Journal's reporting "misleading." Kotick mirrored those remarks, describing his depiction in the article as "inaccurate" before doubling down on his previous commitment to move forward with a new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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