Pulling up a seat for myself at Viacom

October 20, 2019

Viacom owns media companies you may have heard of — Paramount, MTV, Logo, VH1, Nickelodeon, TV Land, and Comedy Central. A few weeks ago, I got to meet with various executives from the multi-billion-dollar media corporation who represented marketing, advertising, and strategies.

I was participating in a Girls’ Takeover  with Plan International USA to celebrate International Day of the Girl. IDG was created by the United Nations, with the help of Plan International, and recognizes the struggles that girls around the world face every day. 

During my takeover, I talked with the professional women at Viacom to learn about their journeys, what they do to promote women on and off camera, and their key pieces of advice for young women — especially me, a young woman of color from India. 

For many of the women, Viacom wasn’t their first career stop. They talked about how they used their prior work experiences to help lead their team, develop their own leadership styles, and do their jobs effectively. But most of what I learned can be connected to the way that they lead their own teams and how they were guided as individuals the moment they stepped into Viacom.

Some women told me advice fit for young girls like me: “Be flexible and major in subjects you are passionate about in college because anything you study can be useful in the workforce.” And others shared wisdom relatable for every woman out there: “When you don’t get a seat at the table, pull one up for yourself” and, “When you have something to say, say it without any hesitation.” Others talked about giving women the chance to step up in client meetings and provide roles within the team to gain more confidence in their abilities to lead. So, when I asked them what they thought the characteristics of a great leader were, I wasn’t surprised when they included traits like: brave, flexible, sympathetic, supportive, and collaborative.

But every single conversation I had ended with talks about gender representation in the media and how to aid women who are on the big screen. And while media has made huge strides from stereotyping women and girls, the general consensus was that there is still so much to be done — especially in representing women realistically and equally, whether it be by their looks or their personalities. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t making changes; Nickelodeon is premiering a new show this fall about a Mexican-American family, called “Casagrande.”

Viacom also hosted an event I attended called Brand Innovators, featuring women in marketing from companies like John Hancock and Gap. One of the presentations talked about Generation Z through research from Viacom Velocity’s Power in Progress study. The study highlighted some of the qualities of Gen. Z, like valuing sympathy over assertiveness, and delved into how these qualities are leading to changes in the way brands should engage with Gen. Z. 

We are still progressing as a society and continuing to add women in the media industry. I just hope the girls of the next generation don’t have to struggle throughout their pre-teen and teenage years — like all of my friends and I did — to get motivation, inspiration, and advice from female leaders, like I got from the women at Viacom.