In celebration of Women’s History Month, Disney employees based in Southern California recently participated in two day-long events focused on inspiring and engaging professional Latina women and college and high school students.
Both events are part of Disney’s ongoing partnership with Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) and the Motivating Our Students Through Experience (MOSTe) organization. HOPE is committed to ensuring political and economic parity for Latinas through leadership, advocacy and education to the benefit of all communities and the status of women. Its youth component, HOPE Youth Leadership Program (HYLP), is designed to prepare low-income, high school-age Latinas for a future that will allow for economic and political parity through a college education. MOSTe also emphasizes the value of education and works to empower girls from diverse neighborhoods of Los Angeles County to become the next generation of college-educated women.
On Thursday, March 9, Disney hosted more than 60 high-achieving Latina high school students for a full day of empowering activities designed to prepare them for life after high school and set them on a path of success. HYLP and MOSTe students heard personal stories, insights on leadership development and career advice from Disney executives, such as Blanca Aguirre, diversity and inclusion project manager for Disney. She shared her college and career journey and stressed the importance of family, determination and goal setting as she encouraged the students to dream big.
Disney’s Learning, Talent Management and Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Linda Lampley-Ike guided students through a personal branding workshop designed to help them identify their strengths, show confidence and deliver an impactful elevator pitch. The students later had the opportunity to engage in smaller groups with women in various roles from across the Enterprise, including Briana Vasquez, content associate, ESPN; Alyssa Perez, senior corporate financial planning analyst, The Walt Disney Company; Jessica Payes, manager of digital distribution services, Studio Operations; Alex Ledesma, software engineer apprentice, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI); Melissa Cassara, senior designer of design and branding, DCPI; Sandy Davila, branded integrations manager, Maker Studios; and Mayde Gomez, KABC7 reporter. The day wrapped with a Studio tour and visits to the set of ABC’s black-ish, the WDI Research Lab and KABC7.
“Having a supportive family, advocates and role models was important in my life, especially during the critical transition from high school to college. I’m proud to work for a company where investing in young women from diverse communities is a priority, and I hope that the students will carry the learnings and experience from their Disney day for many years to come,” Blanca Aguirre said at the conclusion of the event.
The second Friday in March is recognized as Latina History Day, and HOPE was instrumental in securing local, county, state and congressional support for that designation. On March 10, HOPE hosted the annual Latina History Day Conference, which was attended by nearly 1,000 women to celebrate the historic and current achievements of Latinas, to network and to hear senior-level executives across a variety of industries speak about career development, community issues, financial empowerment and more. KABC7 weekend meteorologist Leslie Lopez served as mistress of ceremonies for the event.
Lucasfilm Vice President of Physical Production Candice Campos presented a keynote address at the Latina History Day luncheon. Taking the stage with the iconic Star Wars theme music playing in the background, the Los Angeles native detailed the career journey that led her from production assistant to production supervisor on films such as The Dark Knight Rises and Insurgent, to Lucasfilm—where she now oversees live-action film production and serves as co-producer on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In 2016, Candice worked closely with the British Film Institute Film Academy to launch a diversity initiative for Lucasfilm features lensed in the United Kingdom, to give aspiring filmmaking professionals apprenticeship opportunities on feature film production sets. She emphasized the importance of hard work and not setting limits, and received a standing ovation from the conference attendees.
“It was an honor to speak at HOPE’s Latina History Day luncheon,” said Campos. “I am very proud of my Mexican heritage and have been so fortunate to work with so many inspirational women throughout my career who have helped me get to where I am today. If we continue to support one another and continue giving each other opportunities, we all benefit.”