A new report describes in detail a pervasive culture of sexual harassment and discrimination at Swedish game developer Paradox Interactive. One report states that a female employee was called a “token hire” and was told to “be quiet” during a company meeting. Other reports state that female employees were often discouraged to report cases of sexual harassment in order to please senior management.
[Content Warning: Sexual Harassment]
A particularly egregious case mentions how Paradox Interactive hired a senior manager with a reputation for “unwelcome approaches and harassment” at a separate company prior to his hiring at Paradox. One woman who worked under the man at that former company states that he would have “too much physical contact” with female employees, describing how he would put “a hand on the lower back or very close hugs, where he drilled his face into one’s throat.”
The company in question later went to court and paid a settlement of 270k Swedish kroner (about $30.8k) in 2016, but Paradox Interactive hired the manager just months later, where he served in a senior role until August 2021.
Another source describes how management belittled and talked down to female employees, who make up about 1/5 of employees at Paradox Interactive. Talking with Eurogamer, sources detail vulgar and misogynistic jokes as well as “meetings where people are screamed at” being commonplace. One woman detailed how she spoke up about the company’s direction during a meeting, only to be told that she was “just [there] as a token hire” and that she “should be quiet about this.”
Worse yet, the company is reportedly ill-equipped to deal with harassment cases because middle management is focused on appeasing senior staff rather than addressing issues. Employees are also fearful of retaliation as Paradox Interactive makes up a significant portion of the comparatively small Swedish game industry.
These reports follow some pretty damning news coming from the Swedish publisher over the past couple of months, starting initially with the departure of former CEO Ebba Ljungerud in early September. While Ljungerud herself stated that the reason was due to “differing views on the company’s strategy,” the above harassment allegations describe a studio culture that was the “worst for women.” It doesn’t help that Ljungerud’s replacement, CEO Fredrik Wester, himself is guilty of “inappropriate behavior” during a company conference held back in 2018.
The full report from Eurogamer details numerous other problems, such as the sway Paradox holds on the Swedish games industry. Paradox has reportedly “hired an external independent auditor to investigate its company culture,” which many hope will begin a shift. One source told Eurogamer that change will need to come from upper management being willing to help, as well as a perception shift of what’s acceptable. “There is actual harassment at Paradox that people are denying, because they don’t believe it’s harassment. We believe it is normal, because where they come from, this culture has been ongoing for years and years and years. And some people have never seen anything different.”