Sep 16, 2021

By Kelby Clark
ViacomCBS employees explain why celebrating the diverse histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latinos is key to authentic representation on and off screen.

In Proud To Be, we highlight ViacomCBS employees and their personal histories. In this installment, we spoke to members of the company's Hispanic employee resource group, Somos, about the importance of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and acknowledging the cultural diversity within the Hispanic and Latino communities.

 

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the ViacomCBS Newsroom spoke with some of our Latinx and Hispanic employees to learn how their experiences influence their work.

“I take pride in producing content that allows others to see themselves and feel represented,” says Elisa Osegueda, managing editor for Entertainment Tonight. “And the opportunity to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month allows me to use my platform and it allows me to highlight different voices within this very broad umbrella of what it is to be Latinx.”

The employees—including Osegueda, Jessica Garcia, Andrew Flores, Mariana Neff, Bryan Veloz, and Karen Vega—expounded on the richness of their culture, the importance of workplace communities to foster inclusion, and how they celebrate their heritage year round.

 

On embracing authenticity…

Andrew Flores, senior producer and franchise social creative lead at Nickelodeon: I've grown up in New York City my whole life, but my cultural background is Puerto Rican...All aspects of my life from the music I listen to, the way I carry myself into a room, the conversations that I helped lead and kind of reveal to people who may not have been in touch with my culture or just the history of New York City in itself.

Bryan Veloz, associate producer for creative promotions at ViacomCBS: My parents came to the United States from Ecuador, around my age, in search of opportunity. The fact that they came from a different country at a young age to build something is what makes me want to constantly strive for more today.

Elisa Osegueda, managing editor at Entertainment Tonight: Growing up, my parents would always remind us to always be of service to make sure that we are building community. That really helped shape the direction that I wanted to go in my career. So I ended up becoming a journalist in order to really be a voice for others.

Jessica Garcia, manager of global diversity and inclusion at ViacomCBS: My mother is originally from Bolivia and my father is from Colombia. After my mom and her siblings came to the United States, they eventually bought properties nearby each other. So, I got to grow up in a really big family with my cousins where every Sunday we would have a family dinner...and in that you learn your culture and you're in it.

 

"Growing up, my parents would always remind us to always be of service to make sure that we are building community. That really helped shape the direction that I wanted to go in my career."

Elisa Osegueda

Managing Editor at Entertainment Tonigh

Karen Vega, creative and intelligence strategist at ViacomCBS:  As I sit here and I reflect on my experience as a young immigrant...I really think about how lucky I am to be in a country that really reinforces what it's like to have freedom. I was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. I think that this month is a great opportunity for younger folks who are second or third generation Latinos to take this month as an opportunity to learn about Latino background, all the different new cultures and diversity that exist.

 

On the importance of fostering community…

Mariana Neff, HR generalist at ViacomCBS: Hispanics have a very rich culture and we don't want it to die out. I was born and raised in Mexico and I have been in the United States for almost half of my life. I’ve learned that we, as Hispanics and Latinos, need to promote those traditions so they continue to live…especially here at ViacomCBS because we’re all about diversity and inclusion. It is a great way to continue promoting our values as a company.

Garcia: I remember when I first started at the company finding out that there was a group of people that got together that were of Hispanic and Latin backgrounds. I thought: ‘Wow, that's amazing.’ Just giving employees a place where they feel like they belong and they can share a part of themselves is a really great opportunity.

Flores: We are not a monolith...There are so many facets to the history of all the countries that encompass the Hispanic and Latino communities that I try to take the time to learn a little more about other people's parts of our giant culture...through employee resource group events I've learned about my coworkers histories and cultures. I've also learned more about myself.

Garcia: ​​The variety is what makes it so special. I remember growing up and walking into a room where everyone was like, ‘Oh, you're Hispanic! So, you must be Mexican’ or ‘Your parents must have been immigrants.’ There's all these assumptions that are made...but I think once you educate yourself on the differences between all the different countries, I think it really makes you understand the diversity even within one group of people.

Vega: Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time for us to unify and come together and realize how powerful we are, as a combined community, and what our contributions to this country have been. ​​We simply just cannot be ignored, especially when we account for about 20 percent of the nation's total workforce.

 

"The more we celebrate each other's backgrounds beyond the workplace and within it, the more inclusive and diverse our content will be."

Andrew Flores

Senior Producer and Franchise Social Creative Lead at Nickelodeon

Osegueda: It's an opportunity to say, here we are and here's what we're proud of. It’s also an opportunity to advance visibility, as well as understanding and appreciation for someone else's journey and culture.

 

On stepping up as a company...

Flores: The more we celebrate each other's backgrounds beyond the workplace and within it, the more inclusive and diverse our content will be.

Vega: As a mom, when I turn on Nickelodeon and I see shows like Santiago of the Seas and Dora the Explorer—which are all great opportunities to teach our kids that there is a bigger—more diverse world beyond their experience, it just makes me even more proud to work for this company.

Garcia: I think that's really so important for a brand to really take the time and reach out to the employees and say, ‘Hey, this is how we're looking to represent you on screen. How can we properly represent you?’ I don't know a lot of other companies that are doing that currently.

Veloz: What companies should focus on to make sure they're authentic in their diversity and inclusion efforts is listening to their employees...I feel like we always listen to respond and we never really listen to understand. And I think listening to your employees is the first step to creating more awesome, more authentic stories.

Vega: We need to go below the surface, and analyze every aspect of the business—from your staff to how you're recruiting, to how you're paying your employees—and really come to terms and realize where you may be falling short. We're not going to change things overnight, but getting that first step of really diving deep into how can we do better is key to making diversity and inclusion a priority.

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