Jun 26, 2021

By Kelby Clark
Asian American and Pacific Islander employees across ViacomCBS explain why celebrating difference is the first step to building diverse and inclusive spaces.

In Proud To Be, we highlight ViacomCBS employees and their personal histories. In this installment, we spoke to members of AMP, the company’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander employee resource group, about how their heritage has shaped their identity.

 

As violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) continues to rise, ViacomCBS stands united against hate in all its forms. Our solidarity with the AAPI community is rooted in the company’s mission and values.

 

“To support their employees, companies should strive to create a workplace that allows a sense of belonging,” says Sean Gupta, SVP of strategy and business operations at BET Networks. “I’m proud that ViacomCBS is really walking the walk. We’re having internal conversations across the organization, hosting recent employee engagement initiatives, and using our platform as a media company to make a public statement that condemn hate.”

 

The ViacomCBS Newsroom spoke to Gupta, as well as Mari Talai, Clayton Yeung, Gayle Gaviola, Patrick Lee, and Donna Osiri about their relationship with their heritage, the need for more Asian visibility on- and off- screen, and how ViacomCBS prioritizes solidarity at the office.

 

 

 

On embracing difference…

 

Mari Talai, senior manager of production for corporate marketing and communication at ViacomCBS: When I was younger, I didn’t like being different. My mom would always make Japanese school lunches for us to bring to school, and I hated it. But I’m so glad she did it because now I realize how special that was for me. I have come to terms with the fact that I am who I am, and I’m super proud of my heritage.

Clayton Yeung, director of diversity and inclusion at ViacomCBS: I was born and raised in Hong Kong and moved to the United States with my mom and brother when I was young. I am who I am because of my family, culture, and heritage.

Patrick Lee, editor at CBS News: My parents fled China and met in Hong Kong, which at that point was a British colony. I was born there, but my mother tongue was Mandarin so when I went to school and I was constantly being made fun of because all the kids spoke Cantonese. It took me a while to understand that’s a form of blessing… One thing that I learned from my mother is that we, as a people, are tough and we are strong.

Sean Gupta, SVP of strategy and business operations at BET Networks: I’m first-generation Indian American. My parents came here with nothing when they emigrated from North India in the 1970s… so my heritage has helped me really be optimistic and see the opportunity in every situation.
Gayle Gaviola, senior director of communications and publicity at Awesomeness: I’m proud to be Filipino-American. It’s pretty much shaped everything about who I am today… I eat our food, listen to our music, support our businesses, whether it’s makeup or clothes. I celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month all year round.

 

"It is so important to celebrate who we are in the workplace, because we all bring so much to the table."

Clayton Yeung

Director of Diversity and Inclusion at ViacomCBS

On the importance of fostering community…

 

Donna Osiri, SVP of global sourcing at ViacomCBS: I’m first-generation Thai, born in Texas, although I grew up in the San Fernando valley suburb of Los Angeles. I grew up speaking Thai in the home, eating Thai food and celebrating Thai culture… But recently we found out through a DNA test that I have ancestry that can be traced back to China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and even Europe.
 

Talai: When you lump us together, you’re disregarding the deep, rich, and complex cultural backgrounds that we individually come from. You’re also lumping together all the really cool stories that we have to tell.

Yeung: We are the sum of many. We’re not just one identity… It is so important to celebrate who we are in the workplace, because we all bring so much to the table. And through our employee resource groups (ERGs), we can better raise visibility where it would be more difficult alone. We can find our voice to speak and to speak loudly, together.
 

Gupta: It’s amazing that we have a company that acknowledges the incredible diversity that exists, specifically among the AAPI community. Earlier in my career, I didn’t see too many people that shared my background in positions of leadership, let alone on television.
 

Gaviola: Representation is super important, and it can’t be done halfway. It requires a deliberate and intentional look at your workforce and an understanding of where the gaps are. But that work all starts with a workplace that is committed to providing an environment that is inclusive and empowers us to be fully who we are.
 

Lee: Even though I was born an Asian, that doesn’t mean I know everything about Asians and the diverse experiences and cultures that make up the Asian community… And the core of what AMP and the other ERGs represent is connection. Through AMP, I think we can connect to each other, our own community, and others that are willing to learn and want to be allies.

 

On feeling empowered in the face of adversity…

Gaviola: The uptick in the incidents of hate this past year is really hard to go through alone and in silos. But the support system internally at ViacomCBS has been crucial and important during these times. You know, I’m an Asian-American woman before I’m a publicist, and I think it’s really important that Asian Americans—especially ones who work in large, corporate spaces—have opportunities to find each other, to connect, and to be there for each other. That’s what AMP and our other ERGs offer.

Osiri: If you know anything about Asian culture, you know we honor and respect our elders deeply. I was very close to my grandparents who passed away just before the pandemic… and when I see others in the AAPI community being attacked, I see my grandparents, my parents, my child, my family being hurt. It makes me angry. It makes me want to do more.

 

"We have a responsibility, as Asian Americans, to advocate for ourselves and other marginalized communities...We are strongest when we’re united."

Mari Talai

Senior Manager of Production for Corporate Marketing and Communication at ViacomCBS

 

Talai: Violence against the AAPI community is not new. There have been many incidents that have been minimized or untold or just simply erased… But we have a responsibility, as Asian Americans, to advocate for ourselves and other marginalized communities. One thing is clear to me: We are strongest when we’re united. This is the time for it.
 

Yeung: Advocacy starts by learning about our history, our true history, and talking to friends and family about the contributions of Asian people in this country. It starts by retelling history that has erased Asians from the history books, and retelling stories of Asians that veer away from the perpetual foreigner or model minority myths.

Gupta: Our company has been using our platform to make public statements with very strong and very specific language that condemns the recent hate and violence against the AAPI community… it’s been remarkably powerful in helping to create a sense of belonging not just for the AAPI community internally but also externally.
 

Gaviola: There’s so much that we can do as individuals, as a company, as a community. We’re just getting started.

Related Articles