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Microsoft takes blame for 'dancing schoolgirls' at Xbox party

Technically Incorrect: Tone-deaf party at Game Developer Conference features scantily-clad dancers in fishnet tights. That doesn't bode well for Microsoft's diversity and inclusion efforts.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

And some people liked it.

IvanMoen/Instagram screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Every time you think the era of booth babes has passed, something else comes along to make you wonder whether tech has changed at all.

At Microsoft's official Xbox party on Thursday night at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, dancers entertained in tight bra-like tops and fishnet tights. Their short plaid skirts suggested a sort of comely schoolgirl look.

That didn't sit well with some attendees, watchdogs and even company officials who note the display runs contrary to the company's said efforts to be more inclusive and to help elevate women in their careers in technology.

Microsoft didn't say who hired the dancers and even Aaron Greenberg, head of Xbox games marketing, was apparently unaware of what the night had in store.

"Very disappointed to see this, going to follow up with team," Greenberg tweeted on Friday.

The company later took full responsibility.

"We represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was not consistent or aligned to our values," Xbox head Phil Spencer said in a statement, referring to the party. "It was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. I know we disappointed many people and I'm personally committed to holding ourselves to higher standards. We must ensure that diversity and inclusion are central to our everyday business and core values. We will do better in the future."

The Twitterverse, of course, was not as formal in its response to the party's entertainment.

Giant Spacekat co-founder Brianna Wu, a game developer who has been vocal about antagonistic attitudes toward women in the industry, tweeted: "Extremely disappointed @Microsoft and @Xbox hired women wearing these outfits to perform at @gd. PLEASE RT."

Kamina Vincent, who attended the party, tweeted that the party cements her place as a customer of rival console Sony PlayStation. She later added: "Making a formal complaint tomorrow. I will not stand for this. I'm trying to encourage women into the industry then this happens."

It seems that no matter how obvious the issue is, some eyes remain closed and some ears remain deaf. For all the necessary and strident conversation about the role of women in technology, there are those who believe nothing has changed and every tech festival still celebrates sausages.

But this was Microsoft, the same company that had, earlier in the conference, sponsored a "Women In Games" lunch.

This is the same Microsoft whose CEO, Satya Nadella, mused that women in tech shouldn't ask for raises, but instead rely on good karma. (He subsequently apologized.)

Microsoft isn't alone in knowing it should address such attitudes. But then someone goes and spoils it all.

I suspect that someone might be dancing on hot coals today.