Microsoft Appoints Woman to Head Xbox Division

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Julie Larson-Green’s appointment was the occasion for both sexist stupidity and a debate about whether a love of gaming is necessary for success in her role. 

By Jessica Schimm (Assistant Editor, Women 2.0)

There’s been a lot of talk about the new head of Microsoft’s Xbox division.

And it’s mostly because she’s female.

Julie Larson-Green, who has had more than 19 years of experience at Microsoft, will succeed Don Mattrick in running the Xbox division, according to Mashable.

She is the company’s highest-ranking female engineering executive according to Bloomberg. Larson-Green was previously responsible for leading the user-interface design for Office XP, Office 2003 and the 2007 Office System, and was celebrated by Microsoft for it.

But there are mixed feelings on the news. Microsoft’s decision stirred up some sexist comments online (i.e. “Now their will be apps dedicated to baking and knitting….”), while others have said that she will be a good fit for the role and benefit “the notoriously sexist gaming industry.” The Atlantic Wire reports:

It’s not clear how much Larson-Green does or does not love the gaming industry, however. Assuming she doesn’t love video games comes off as sexist, argues Wainwright. (Would people jump to say that about a dude?—Wainwright suggests not.) Someone in Larson-Green’s position probably doesn’t have as much time for hardcore gaming as people commenting in video game websites. But, it’s also not clear how much loving games, or even gaming-specific industry experience matters for success. There are plenty of examples of success and failure in the gaming world from all sorts of figures, as pointed out by one dissenting N4G commenter. “A good example is Peter Moore, before working at Sega and subsequently MS, he actually worked at Reebok.”

There is no doubt that gamers will be watching her closely, especially with Xbox One being “Microsoft’s biggest product launch of the last 10 years – and likely will be its biggest for the next 10,” according to Gamesindustry International.

Will the appointment of Larson-Green make the gaming industry more female friendly?

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Jessica Schimm is the assistant editor at Women 2.0. She is a recent graduate of San Francisco State where she earned a B.A. in journalism and was the editor-in-chief of SF State’s Her Campus chapter. She has a strong interest in women’s issues and writes about them on her blog Women Who Run San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaSchimm.

Photo credit: John Lam via Flickr