'It's hard to be a woman in this company': More details of sexual harassment at Paradox Interactive emerge

Paradox Interactive logo
(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

New reports from Eurogamer and Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet detail further allegations of a misogynistic workplace culture at Paradox Interactive, the studio behind grand strategy mainstays including Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, and Hearts of Iron. The report comes just over a month after the leak of a Paradox employee survey in which 69% of women respondents reported some form of mistreatment while working at the company.

One incident cited in the report includes the hiring of a senior manager with a reputation for "unwelcome approaches and harassment" at his previous studio. A former employee of that studio, who resigned over the harassment she faced, was granted a settlement of nearly 270,000 Swedish kroner ($30,700) in 2016, just months before the manager was hired at Paradox. He maintained "a leading role" there until two months ago, according to the report. 

"He had too much physical contact with us female employees," a former employee of that studio said. "A hand on the lower back or very close hugs, where he drilled his face into one's throat. [There] were several girls who talked about it."

Other forms of mistreatment mentioned in the reporting are more subtle. Multiple sources said the company is "clearly male-dominated," and women face different treatment from their male counterparts."

"I have been to meetings where I'm the only woman in the room, and I say 'Hey, I really think we should go this direction, based on my experience', and someone looks at me, and they say, 'You know what, you're just here as a token hire. So I think you should be quiet about this'," one woman said.

"It's hard to be a woman in this company. People are like, 'You're just whining? Why is it harder for women?' But if a guy would have brought the same things up it would have been a valid opinion."

Paradox has not adequately addressed these issues, according to one employee, because the management structure is focused primarily on pleasing senior management rather than supporting line workers and dealing with systemic issues. A similar sentiment was expressed in the leaked employee survey, which stated, "There is a perception that perpetrators at managerial level are protected by the company." There's also a reluctance to speak out because of the small size of the Swedish videogame industry. "Everyone knows everyone," another woman said, which makes confidentiality difficult to maintain.

The situation isn't necessarily hopeless, but one employee said the situation can't change unless senior management starts taking it seriously. "There is actual harassment at Paradox that people are denying, because they don't believe it's harassment," she said. "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."

Overcoming that particular hurdle could be complicated by the presence of Paradox CEO Fredrik Wester, who replaced Ebba Ljungerud in September. Shortly after retaking the CEO role (Ljungerud's successor is also her predecessor—she took over the top job from him in 2018), Wester issued an apology for a 2018 incident involving "inappropriate behavior" with a Paradox employee. The nature of the incident has not been disclosed, although Wester said that it was unrelated to his decision to step down.

A Paradox rep said the company took the results of the leaked employee survey seriously, although he also pointed out that it was an "informal" study based on a "limited sample" of employees. Like Activision, a much larger videogame company that's been rocked by allegations of widespread abuse and mistreatment of its female employees, Paradox has also hired an external auditor to investigate the company's culture. The company declined to comment further on the reports.

Update: Svenska Dagbladet has corrected the translated article it provided to Eurogamer to amend the word "svanken", which means "lower back" rather than "groin."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.