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  • Activision Blizzard’s Frances Townsend Transitions From Her Role: What Next?

    Published on October 11, 2022

    Over the past year, Frances Townsend has played an integral role in strengthening Activision Blizzard’s workplace culture. Since joining the Southern California-based video game company, Townsend has filled the role of executive vice president for corporate affairs, corporate secretary, and chief compliance officer. Sept. 30, 2022, was her last day in that position as she vacated her executive roles at Activision Blizzard.

    However, it is not a final goodbye, because Frances Townsend has agreed to remain on board as a senior adviser to the Activision Blizzard executive board, which includes CEO Bobby Kotick. He praised Townsend’s work with the video game company that he has been leading since February 1991. “She tirelessly and successfully navigated a challenging time for the company with leadership, conviction, and grace,” he stated in a companywide email.

    Helping Activision Blizzard Stay Focused on Achieving Its Goals

    When she joined the video game company, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick stated that Frances Townsend “is a highly regarded public servant and corporate executive. We are very fortunate to have her wealth of experience added to our leadership team. Our company will benefit greatly from her energy, intellect, and stewardship.”

    Before joining the Activision Blizzard corporation, the 60-year-old native New Yorker spent a decade at McAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., where she served as executive vice president for worldwide government, legal, and business affairs. Fran Townsend also acted as a Baker Botts partner and a homeland security adviser during the George W. Bush administration. She succeeded Jeffrey Brown, who left his role as the corporate secretary and compliance chief at Activision two months prior. Townsend says that she believes in Kotick “as a transformational leader” and stated, “Activision Blizzard has grown at a remarkable rate over the last 25 years, and I want to be part of the continuation of this incredible journey to connect the world through our amazing franchises.”

    As Townsend is no longer an employee of Activision Blizzard, two prominent women have been promoted from within the organization. Jennifer Brewer and Luci Altman were appointed to the chief ethics and compliance officer and corporate secretary positions on Oct. 1, 2022.

    Brewer had previously been the vice president of compliance and chief risk officer at the Call of Duty giant. She’s been an essential part of changing how the company deals with compliance concerns and overseeing the Way2Play Team, which is the group in charge of ethics and compliance. She plays an integral role in everything from training to the policies and code of conduct that Activision Blizzard enforces. “The word ‘compliance’ can be intimidating and unfriendly; it can make people uncomfortable, doesn’t seem approachable, and people don’t know what it means,” she explained. “The idea [behind Way2Play] is, what is the right way to play? How do we infuse that drive to do the right thing into the conversation no matter what you’re doing, what business you’re working on, what deal you’re trying to close?”

    Brewer added, “Employees are not ready for, certainly, the legal department to come asking them for ideas, and I think we really changed the dynamic of that conversation. I had not experienced a work situation that was quite so connected on a human level.”

    That level of open dialogue can make a huge difference for the employees of Activision Blizzard. In-person training that involves group interactions and conversation “have been really effective tools at building relationships and partnering and making it less intimidating,” according to Brewer. “We are not police officers. We are resources, and we are here to help [employees] in really tricky situations.”

    One of the biggest obstacles has been for Brewer and her team to create online digital training programs that will resonate with and hold the attention of many of the industry’s leading video game developers. “We are never going to make the content as cool as they make,” she admitted. “We have been able to look at things and proactively address them rather than waiting until it is a big problem. That has been huge.”

    Frances Townsend Talks the Need for More Women in Government, Tech, Gaming, and Securities Roles

    Having worked in both corporate and government sectors, Townsend recognized many similarities. “I think people would be surprised that the same skills that are required to succeed in a corporate environment are the same skills necessary in the government environment,” she explained. “It cannot be about you as an individual. The mission is too important for egos to get too involved.”

    There is also a gender bias, with fewer women holding positions of power in the government and securities as well as gaming and tech, even though women aged 25 to 49 make up Activision Blizzard’s largest player demographic. “I find this to be interesting since the issue is not particular to a single political party,” explained Frances Townsend. “There are places yet to go [and] I am optimistic we will see it in my lifetime.”

    While the United States elected Kamala Harris as its first female vice president in 2020, the secretary of defense, director of the CIA, and director of the FBI positions have never been held by women. “While they are in very senior positions, they are much more operational,” noted Townsend. “And I think that is a road yet to be traveled for women. I think they will. I think you have now got competent, qualified women who have got the kind of experience necessary for those positions.”

    Frances Townsend states, “Women can be aware of getting to the strategic answer, the strategic result, and are less proprietary about how they get there, whereas men are often very proprietary in how they get there. They do want to get to the strategic result, but they tend to be more proprietary about getting there. That means, in my experience, at least, women are incredibly pragmatic. For instance, who gets the credit? Sure, women want to get the credit when they’ve been part of producing a result, but they’re very willing to share it as long as they can get there. I think that’s an advantage for women — women give credit away because they’re willing to share credit with all those who contributed to the results.”


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