Sitting Down with Mercedes Vasallo During Inclusion Week

Last October, Madrid, Spain, was the host of Inclusion Week, a celebration of the diversity in our company and a way to further the discussion about how to be a more inclusive workplace. We heard from lots of different ViacomCBS employees over the course of these days, and we were lucky enough to get a chance to sit down for an interview with Mercedes Vasallo.

Mercedes Vasallo is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Technology Operations EMEA and Asia. She’s been a part of the Viacom family for nearly fifteen years and has made outstanding contributions during her tenure as Senior Vice President of HR. Mercedes gave us an inside look at a vital component of Inclusion week in this interview: D&I strategy.

The Importance of Diversity & Inclusion at Viacom

But before we discuss some of the D&I strategy Mercedes presented, we have to talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion at Viacom. And Mercedes hit the nail on the head when asked what it means to us: everything. As she put it, diversity is all around us, and we can’t negate this fact; on the contrary—it’s something to embrace.

Mercedes discussed the need not only for a focus on inclusion but also in creating an environment that makes everyone who forms a part of it feel included—which is at the center of ViacomCBS’s attention. We want our team members to be proud of who they are and feel comfortable expressing their selves. Reaching that goal starts with events like Inclusion Week.

The Importance of Diversity & Inclusion Beyond Our Doors

Mercedes’s understanding of the importance of D&I also extends beyond life at our company. As she explains, all employees form a part of a community and society at large. She feels that our role as a company is to shared a common understanding among the people who work here to help them contribute to developing a more inclusive society overall.

How Is Viacom Working on D&I Strategy?

Mercedes affirmed that D&I is a strategic priority for Viacom. It’s at the heart of all the activities we carry out, and we’re investing lots of resources to create a unique space of inclusiveness and belonging. When we asked Mercedes which D&I initiative she’s most proud of, she found it hard to choose—and told us about two.

Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives

The first one she mentioned was an awareness campaign that includes all ViacomCBS employees. This campaign allows them to share their thoughts and feedback, and D&I strategy is shared and discussed country by country.

The second had to do with campaigns ensuring equal opportunities across genders, and Mercedes highlighted one in particular: a program developed to support women in their professional careers. It’s aimed at high-potential women in manager and director positions, and the goal of the program is to encourage their learning and development.

She tells us that women who form part of this initiative have transformative experiences. They learn things that stay with them throughout their careers, but the program touches on more than just business-related topics. Topics such as cultivating growth, planning, and projecting executive presence all form part of the curriculum.

The feedback from program participants is overwhelmingly positive, and the results speak for themselves. Thirty-six percent of members have been promoted in the six months following the conclusion of the program!

Why Is Celebrating Inclusion Week Necessary?

As Mercedes explains, taking the time to come together for Inclusion Week helps promote mutual respect. It’s an initiative that she feels proud of, and we echo those sentiments. Inclusion Week also allows us to collaborate as a team to create something bigger than us. And because, when it comes to diversity, there’s always something to celebrate!

What Lies Ahead on the Inclusion and Diversity Journey?

We asked Mercedes a critical question in our sit-down interview with her: what work remains to be done in creating an inclusive space for all?

She stressed that this journey is a never-ending one. There is always something more to do, and we’ve only just begun to chip away at the work that needs to be done. As Mercedes puts it, there are lots of differences to be recognized and celebrated. D&I has been, is, and will continue to be a top priority at ViacomCBS, with continuing awareness efforts, campaigns, and inclusivity programs at the forefront of our efforts.

But Mercedes doesn’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture. As we hinted at earlier, inclusion and diversity go beyond business—though it is critical for us a company. Fostering tolerance and respect for people from other walks of life is one way we contribute to society. Reflecting on ourselves and our behaviors during events like Inclusion Week is imperative if we want to move forward.

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