When more than 60 Viacom employees from London, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville and New York convened for two days recently at the company’s global headquarters in Times Square, they had more than just their employer in common. In addition to their day jobs, they are all dedicated leaders in the company’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which work through our Office of Global Inclusion (OGI), to continually build an environment of inclusiveness. They had assembled in Viacom’s cavernous White Box event space for OGI’s first-ever ERG Leadership Summit.
Office of Global Inclusion
With the season of giving in full swing, Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion and its Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) joined forces for the 6th annual Give Back & Get Down event at our Times Square headquarters. This gift giving initiative focused on education and improving literacy – encouraging employees from all corners of our New York offices to volunteer and donate books. Viacom employees and Nickelodeon in partnership with Random House collected 15,000 books for literacy organizations including: The Pajama Program, Books Through Bars, The Chris Canty Foundation, Literacy Inc. (LINC) and Jumpstart. Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman thanked the hundreds in attendance for their collaborative support and ushered in a celebratory, acoustic performance by pop star Alessia Cara singing her hit song “Here”.
Anna Mastro had managed to build a pretty impressive directing portfolio. Her reel included Walter, a full-length independent feature film starring Andrew J. West and Justin Kirk, as well as the short film Bench Seat, a film festival hit. Her credits also included spots for Cover Girl, MasterCard and NASCAR; award-winning music videos for Train, DJ Havana Brown and Victoria Justice; and a Royal Crush series of branded content for Royal Caribbean that earned tens of millions of views.
For all that experience and success, Mastro couldn’t break into the one genre that was especially appealing to her: episodic television. “Episodic directing, to get into, is extremely challenging,” Mastro said. “Even if you do one. I had done an episode of Gossip Girl, and then I did a movie, and it still took this program for people to give me more shows.”
Mastro finally got her chance when she discovered the recently launched Viacom Spectrum Director Development Program, which offers on-set job-shadowing of working Directors Guild of America (DGA) directors to a hand-selected coterie of women and minorities, who are vastly under-represented in the directorial ranks.
As part of a series of events celebrating Black History Month last week, Viacom’s The Beat and HERE partnered to present “A Conversation with Mara Brock Akil.” After an early screening of this week’s episode of BET’s Being Mary Jane, Essence’s Entertainment Director Cori Murray sat down with Mara Brock Akil, the creator and executive producer of hit TV shows “Girlfriends,” “The Game” and “Being Mary Jane” for an hour of what felt like honest girl talk with Viacom and Essence employees. Brock Akil shared her personal take on navigating the entertainment business, her creative process and deep passion to bring beautifully flawed characters to television.
Reflecting on Black History Month at Viacom, it’s hard to ignore all the fascinating content and talked-about moments both on-air and at our headquarters in Times Square. From historical past to present, our networks paid tribute to the black experience, celebrating the contributions of African-Americans to American history with engaging programming and employee-led discussions about diversity in the entertainment industry.
Cable led a successful diversity week in New York City this month, from the Walter Kaitz Foundation Dinner co-chaired by Viacom’s Philippe Dauman to the 27th Annual NAMIC (National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications) conference in Times Square. NAMIC’s theme this year was Vision 2043: Inclusion. Inspiration. Imagination. I caught up with NAMIC Board Chair, Michael Armstrong, SVP and GM of BET International & Paramount Channel VIMN, to learn more about the theme’s significance and the highlights from the two-day conference.
The Supreme Court’s decision today to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act was met with cheers and tears, hugs and high fives across Viacom.
When the ruling came down, several members of Emerge, Viacom’s LGBT employee affinity group, were in a breakfast meeting with Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s President and CEO. Dauman regularly holds breakfast meetings with employee groups to discuss the company issues of the day, particularly in regards to diversity and inclusion.
We also caught up with several of those members of Emerge afterward for their reactions to today’s historic decision:
When we all heard the news this morning, the whole conference room cheered. I know that we have a long way to go toward full marriage equality, but this was a very important milestone, and I am so proud of the community and those who have fought so hard.
– Brandon Grabowski, Senior Manager, Shopper Insights, Nickelodeon Research and co-chair of Emerge
Today is a fantastic day for the LGBT community. So very happy for all my friends whose marriages will now be recognized on the federal level. This is a huge step in the right direction. I am also very proud that I am able to share this moment at work and have the ability to be so open about it since Viacom is such an inclusive work environment. Amazing day.
– Michael Armstrong, Associate Producer, Ad Sales Production, Viacom Music Group, and co-chair of Emerge, pictured at left with Edie Windsor, the plaintiff who challenged the federal law
– Shannon Travis, Manager, Content Distribution and Marketing
Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. On our first anniversary, the NY state legislature voted to pass marriage equality. This year, although a day after our anniversary, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this time in history, and the dates of these significant landmarks in gay history will always share a special meaning to me and my husband.
-Matthew Vidal, Senior Counsel, Business and Legal Affairs, Nickelodeon Digital Media, pictured above (left) with his husband Rick
Today’s Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an unconstitutional deprivation of the equal liberty of all persons guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment is welcome and gratifying for our company – it’s the result we hoped for and worked to achieve. We’re very pleased that Viacom could play a role in ensuring that all Americans who marry have equal rights under the law. Our core values embrace a deep respect for diversity and inclusion, which includes the position we took in Windsor: if state law permits same-sex marriages, the federal government has no business impeding the rights and entitlements of such couples. As Viacom and 277 other employers said in the amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court:
Viacom’s AIDS Walk Team joined approximately 30,000 committed participants for the 28th annual AIDS Walk in New York City’s Central Park this past May. Braving the rain showers – walkers completed the 10-kilometer walk to benefit the leading AIDS organization, GMHC and more than 40 other dynamic AIDS service organizations throughout the tri-state area. Recently wrapping up an extended fundraising push the team raised over $19,000. Read More
Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion, The Parenthood, SOMOS, and The BEAT partnered to host an inspiring film screening and panel that successfully moved the silence around autism and encouraged the difficult dialogue about what it’s like to parent a special needs child. The audience was treated to a screening of the short film, Colored My Mind, which stars Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker as parents coping with their son’s autism diagnosis. The screening was followed by a panel with the film’s director and BET Sunday Best producer Nia Hill and the film’s cast LaDonna Hughley, Donna Hunter, Tammy McCrary and Shannon Nash. The panel was moderated by actress, author and autism advocate Holly Robinson Peete.