Viacom’s Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Grad Ceremony Inspires Teen Coders, Employees and Company Executives

Each year since 2015, Viacom Headquarters has opened its doors to a group of teenagers, letting them loose on the floors of our tech department and off-site broadcasting control rooms.

Sound hectic? Well, it’s part of Girls Who Code, a nationally-renowned nonprofit initiative which aims to increase the number of women in computer science. It teaches young girls computer programming skills, which they can use towards a future career in tech, or any number of jobs where this knowledge is essential.

Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters inspired a new generation of teen techies.

Viacom provides expert mentors from various fields in the company to teach the girls what it takes to become a force in any industry they pursue. We host field trips to off-site locations such as The Daily Show production studio, where the teens can see how many ways tech can be applied in the media industry.

And yes, the result is a bustling summer of adventure and learning, with crowded elevators at company headquarters and wide-eyed teens gazing at the walls of our building as if it were a majestic castle. It’s also a valuable learning experience for current employees.

In many ways, our GWC program reminds me of how lucky I am to work at Viacom—a place where we’re encouraged to learn new skills, connect with colleagues in other departments, and walk through hallways covered with exquisite art.

At the end of August, the company held a graduation ceremony for these students at our Times Square Headquarters.

The 2017 graduating class of Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish spoke at the event, telling the audience how Viacom’s involvement with GWC personally resonated.

“Speaking as an engineering grad – but more importantly, as a dad of two teenage girls, it’s especially gratifying that Viacom is part of this incredibly important work to build a strong community of female leaders in computer science,” said Bakish.

“[Viacom] brands create great content that drives culture and conversation in more than 180 countries. Coding enables us to do what we do – from production to distribution, operations to advertising, broadcasting and beyond.

It is the glue that holds our digital infrastructure together…and it’s the foundation for the new and innovative experiences that allow our fans to connect even more closely with their favorite Viacom brands and content.”

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish speaks about the value of diversifying tech at Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami also spoke, telling the audience of graduates, employees and family members how crucial coding is for women. “There are so many places where females are underrepresented and its inspiring to know there are movements like Girls Who Code who are trying to change that,” said Zarghami.

The Nickelodeon executive followed up with an pertinent example of how the network broke gender tropes with an iconic 90s show, Clarissa Explains It All.

“It was an important show because it broke a lot of rules. We were told that boys wouldn’t watch shows about a girl. And that more girls would watch a show about a boy than about a girl,” said Zarghami. However, the show defied stereotypes: “It was a giant hit.”

There is so much more to be done, Zarghami stressed. “There aren’t enough women directors, or screenwriters, or producers. Or female leads in super-hero movies,” said Zarghami.

“But there is a movement now to change all of that, not just in TV and tech, but in every field. And you, and your generation, and organizations like Girls Who Code, are a big part of this change.”

Hear from the grads

“Thank you Viacom for this amazing opportunity and for helping to combat the stigma that girls can’t do math or STEM because WE CAN and WE WILL!” – Group Body Posi+-

“Viacom helped bring a real-life touch to coding.” – Charlotte, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“It was so cool being here at Viacom. We went to see The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. We got to see the whole studio and all the people working to make the production come alive, which was cool especially since I’m interested in entertainment and the more creative aspect of production. It was interesting to hear from the staff the paths they took to get to their career, which weren’t necessarily conventional [production-oriented] paths. I grew up watching Nickelodeon. We got to see where the magic happens and how [shows] are made. It was great to see how we can take what we learned in seven weeks and use that to actually help people and create things on your own in the future.” I’ve never coded before, so I was a little nervous about that. However, the other students in the program were supportive, amazing and just so friendly, and it was amazing being with such a diverse group of girls. Everyone was different, they had different ideas, came from different backgrounds…it was just so cool. I definitely made some great friends here.” – Alaire, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“We really enjoyed our guest speakers. One of the speakers gave us really good insight about being a woman in tech, life in general and how to maintain a balance between work and play.” – Maitri, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“Going on what Maitri said, this speaker told us that you don’t always have to stick to one thing, you can always go around and you find different things and eventually you will find something that you are the perfect fit for.” – Brianna, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

 

Photos by Amy Pinard Photography 

Viacom’s Third Annual Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Opens Doors and Unlocks Keys to Diversity

Since 2015, Viacom has welcomed 60 high school girls to its Times Square Headquarters as part of the nationally-renowned Girls Who Code summer immersion program. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization driven to close the gender gap in tech by giving young girls a foundation in coding.

“Coding is a skill that can open up many doors for someone,” said Viacom Senior Director of Technology, Aurelie Gaudry. “Viacom is the perfect partner for a Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program because it introduces young women to beginner computer science concepts while also allowing them to see many different paths coding can lead you down.”

💙💕💛💕💙 #Viacom #NYC #gwcviacom

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At Viacom, these paths include careers in TV production, or creating apps for Nickelodeon and BET. It could be a managerial role, directing a team of engineers to develop new online games, or even one in communications, acting as a liaison between coders and brand representatives.

“One of the wonderful benefits of hosting the GWC program is watching our technology team find inspiration from the passion and caliber of the young women involved,” said Viacom Chief Technology Officer Dave Kline.

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Viacom and One Africa Music Fest Host Employee Meet and Greet With Afrobeat Stars

Afrobeat exploded out of a combination of West African musical styles in the 1970s. From its original sounds exemplified by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti to the Nigerian, Ghanaian and South African artists blowing up the hottest radio stations and nightclubs across the U.S., Europe and Africa today, the Afrobeat movement is alive, well, and on fire!

The BEAT, Viacom’s black employee resource group, wanted to share the Afrobeat movement with its members and the rest of the Viacom family. On the eve of the second One Africa Music Fest in New York City, the BEAT hosted an Afrobeat listening session and meet and greet with two of Nigeria’s biggest Afrobeat artists.

(L to R) Praiz, Ezinne Kwubiri, Flavour Photo by: Oluwaseye

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BET Introduces Robin Thede, Late Night’s Only Black, Female Host

Robin Thede earned her first writing credit at the 2014 BET Awards, crafting jokes for show host Chris Rock. The gig sparked a fast-paced career in the entertainment industry—a career marked by firsts.

As head writer for Comedy Central’s Nightly Show starting in 2015, she became the first black woman to hold that position for any late-night show. One year later, Thede became the first black woman to serve as head writer for the 2016 White House Press Correspondence Dinner.

Now, Thede has come back to BET. This time, as the host of her own show: The Rundown With Robin Thede, where she’ll reunite with Rock, an executive producer for the program.

She’ll also be the only late-night host currently on air who is black and female.

“It’s a quality that Ms. Thede knows will immediately set her apart from her many competitors,” wrote Dave Itzkoff in The New York Times.

Thede’s “Who Dis?” segment on The Nightly Show was a hit with viewers.

Thede’s irreverent comedic style is a natural fit for late-night, the programming block characterized by acerbic hosts and borderline-offensive skits.

“I purposely put my name in the title so no one can replace me,” Thede quipped in an interview with Essence.

Watch the trailer:

The Rundown will be Thede’s chance to share her charismatic and hilarious style with a wider audience, who may not be familiar with her as a TV personality (although viewers will recognize her humor if they’ve watched any of the daytime, late-night and scripted TV shows where she’s credited as a writer.

“Some people only know me as a comedian, and some people only know me as a writer,” Thede told Variety. “This show blends field and studio comedy and plays to my strengths as a writer and performer. I want to create a (show) that is unlike anything else on the market.”

BET has the same goal. Connie Orlando, BET’s head of programming, told The New York Times that the network was looking to shake up its programming with late-night comedy.

“It was something that made sense for the direction we’re going in,” said Orlando. “We realized our real prime time starts at 10, and our audience loves to laugh. It felt like the perfect moment to add the voice of an African-American female to the conversation.” Orlando also believes the show has potential to go viral and reach viewers outside BET’s demographic.

How? Late-night talk shows are fueled by current events, relying on the daily news cycle for their commentary. Race relations and women’s issues heavily focused on. Thede is in a unique position as a black woman to provide commentary on these topics from her own experience—adding a level of genuine credibility to the late-night set that, until now, hasn’t existed for black female viewers.

In an interview with The New York Times, Thede predicted this credibility would help her show gain traction. “I’m speaking to stories that matter to us,” said Thede, referring to black women. Members of her community will tune in to “to get an authentic opinion about stories they’re not going to hear anywhere else.”

But The Rundown has great potential to engage viewers from every demographic, according to Orlando.

“The show’s going to cover anything from Cardi B to what’s happening in the White House,” Orlando told The New York Times. “I think all kinds of audiences will be interested to know and listen to what Robin has to say.”


Thede and her team have made it clear that their show will embody diversity behind the scenes, as well, with a staff comprised of women, people of color, and LGBT individuals.

The late night is about to wake up.

The Rundown With Robin Thede airs Thursday, October 13 at 11 p.m. on BET.

How CMT Transformed Nashville Into Its Most Successful (And Progressive) Show

In 2015, Rolling Stone said ABC’s Nashville “reflects real-life struggles in the entertainment industry.”  This was in reference to the country soap’s gay characters, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) and Kevin Bix (Kyle Dean Massey).

At the time, Bix was a new addition to the Nashville family, and as an openly gay singer, struggled to have a successful career. Lexington was hiding his sexual identity from his fans, while flourishing professionally.

Flash forward to 2017. Nashville moved to CMT for its fifth season earlier this year. Now, Lexington is out and proud, realizing he could still embrace his role as a country music star as an LGBT individual after being forced out of the closet in season three by a rival musician.

Since joining the CMT roster, Nashville has become the network’s highest-rated and most-watched series ever. Even after losing a beloved main character (Rayna James) in a tragic car crash, the show has remained wildly successful.

At least part of this success can be attributed to CMT’s inventive and progressive storyline and character development. Take Lexington’s evolution, for example. Entertainment blog Cinemablend commended CMT on “sprucing up” his character, giving him more than just romantic story arcs and LGBT-drama to fill his screen time.

Even the network’s portrayal of his sexuality has adopted more realistic angles. Even though Music City is full of heartbreak and drama, being a gay country singer doesn’t have to be riddled with conflict. In a recent episode that aired during Pride Month, Lexington got the opportunity to be a brand spokesperson for Budweiser.

Watch the fictional spot:

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BET, VH1 Win NAMIC Awards for Telling Diverse, Authentic Stories

Whose stories are being told on television? Now, more than ever, they’re our viewers’—their lives, experiences, and individual triumphs and hardships.

The National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) Vision Awards honor original TV programming that reflects the diversity of its audience.

NAMIC announced this year’s winners on Monday, April 24. Thirteen shows from three Viacom networks, including BET, VH1, and Nickelodeon, were nominated for awards. Out of these nominations, three programs—including BET’s Being Mary Jane, Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement and VH1’s Hip Hop Honors: All Hail the Queens won their respective categories.

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Make America Fierce Again: What a Ratings Surge Tells Us About RuPaul’s Drag Race

After strutting from Logo to VH1, RuPaul’s Drag Race’s ninth season premiered Friday, March 24. Critics say it’s as fabulous as ever—with a fierce cast delivering a whole new level of charisma, nerve, and talent. Viewers agree. The season premiere drew nearly 1 million viewers, more than any other episode of Drag Race. It was the most-watched show on cable TV that night, besides the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. The divas dominated Twitter, as well, trending worldwide and garnering the highest Twitter volume in Drag Race history.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07: (L-R) Eureka O'hara, Peppermint, Kimora Blac, Alexis Michelle; Trinity Taylor, Shea Coulee, Jaymes Mansfield, Nina Bo' Nina Brown, Aja, Valentina, Sasha Velour, Charlie Hides and Farrah Moan attend "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 9 Premiere Party & Meet The Queens Event at PlayStation Theater on March 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

The cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race attend Season 9 Premiere Party & Meet The Queens Event at PlayStation Theater on March 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

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My Mic Sounds Nice: Viacom and The BEAT Recognize Hip-Hop’s Innovative Women

My Mic Sounds Nice, a panel organized by the BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African American experience) gave a shout out to the women fundamental to hip-hop’s success. Trell Thomas, VH1 Save the Music Foundation’s director of communication and talent relations, moderated the event at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

The panel featured women who contribute to hip-hop in major ways: Jana Fleishman, EVP of Communication at Roc Nation; LaTrice Burnette, SVP of Marketing at Epic Records; Nadeska Alexis, Senior Editorial Producer at Complex; and hip-hop artist Roxanne Shante.

View the slideshow:

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Nick Jr.’s Nella the Princess Knight Captures the Zeitgeist of Diverse America

Not all super heroes wear capes—some wear sparkly ball gowns.

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Nella rides into town with a message of self-empowerment. Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Nella, the titular character in Nick Jr.’s Nella the Princess Knight is shattering princess norms.

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This biracial princess knight slays gender norms. Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Equal parts glam, girly-girl and brave warrior, Nella lives in a castle and gossips with her pet unicorn about fashion—yet she’s not afraid to get her pink gloves dirty when trouble arises.

Nella grabs her glittering sword and dons pastel armor, embarking on treacherous quests to save her kingdom.

Oh, and she’s biracial.

Since the show premiered earlier this month, Nella’s attracted legions of fans (besides Nick Jr.’s target audience of preschoolers).

Nella is a hero. Not just for the citizens of her fictional village, but for parents, journalists, television critics, African-American bloggers, college students, women’s studies professors, and child media advocacy groups.

According to People, “[Nella] stands for everything our world needs.”

Here’s why.

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BET Sends Obama Family Out with a Flourish

With a flourish of pride and patriotism, BET celebrated Barack Obama’s eight-year run as president with an emotional send-off on his last day in office. Through the Fire: The Legacy of Barack Obama followed a month-long series of BET documentaries and specials honoring the first couple and their many achievements.

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