Throughout Pride Month, we’ve been celebrating and recognizing the contributions and stories of our LGBTQ+ community with cast members and guests around the world. Today, as we conclude our month-long celebrations, we’re excited to bring you one more inspiring story.
We sat down with Vivian Ware, Diversity & Inclusion Manager, who reflected on her journey helping launch one of Disney’s first-ever BERGs (Business Employee Resource Groups) more than 22 years ago, our PRIDE BERG.
As a cast member of 33 years, Vivian has a rich history with our company – beginning her Disney career in entertainment costuming at EPCOT in 1986, making magic at nearly every domestic Disney park and resort, and even spending time aboard the Disney Wonder. Along the way, Vivian consistently served as a diversity and inclusion advocate, involved in various Diversity Resource Groups, known today as our BERGs, as well as Local Diversity Action Teams that worked to bring the diversity strategy to life across different areas of the parks and resorts.
At Disney, each BERG is comprised of cast members from across the company who have a passion to create and support a place where we all belong, no matter our backgrounds, experiences, or identities. At the core of each BERG is a specific dimension of diversity and these groups are open to everyone, whether you identify as part of that community, you are an ally or you want to learn more and grow in your diversity journey. For Vivian, becoming a founding member of the PRIDE BERG was a milestone in her ability to live as her “true, authentic self.”
In 1998, when Vivian was asked if she would be interested in joining a team of fellow cast members organizing a Diversity Resource Group that was supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Vivian became instrumental in founding the group, soon to be known as PRIDE (People Respecting Individual Diversities in Everyone).
She recalls that at the time, she was still early in her own coming out journey. “Being able to connect with others and create a bond with people who were like me, created affirmation for me that I was not alone and that it was okay for me to be who I was.”
In the new BERG founded in 1999, Vivian and her fellow members could learn from the experiences of others and grow together. The bond and connection formed from this group is still strong today, with many of the members still working together at Disney. “When I look at how far we have come as a BERG and as a company, I am so proud to see so many intersections of identity represented,” Vivian said.
The launch of the PRIDE BERG coincided with the launch of our HOLA BERG, which advocates for the Hispanic and Latinx community, and PULSE BERG, which supports the Black, African-American, and Caribbean communities. Vivian fondly recalls the teams involved in all three launches coming together to serve as allies to one another as they geared up to launch the BERGs: “The launch of these first-ever BERGs at the same time showed the strength of community. When we all come together, our voices are more powerful than when we work separately.”
Today, there are many opportunities for cast members within all BERGs, including networking with fellow cast members at various programs and events, taking part in community outreach and joining sub-committees where they work on diversity and inclusion strategies to grow effectiveness.
As we bring the spirit of the newly introduced Inclusion Key to life across our parks, Vivian shared that she is constantly amazed and inspired by the courage and the leadership from each person in the Diversity and Inclusion Councils that were created across the local parks this past year.
“Our leaders are looking at all of our experiences, processes and systems with a new lens. They are empowered to make change when they see a need and are committed to continue to learn and grow so that everyone belongs,” she says. “I am so proud to work for our company where we create a space for everyone to bring their full selves to work every day, making magic for our guests and cast.”
For Vivian, Pride Month is a time to come together to remember those who stood up for the LGBTQ+ community in the early years, when it was not always a safe place to be out. It also creates opportunities to come together as a community, celebrating the rainbow of identities.
“For so many, Pride Month creates a space to see that they are not alone, that there is love and support out there, and that you can live your truth.”
Today as a member of the PRIDE BERG, along with all of our other BERGs across the company, Vivian takes pride in seeing many intersections of identity represented. As she looks to the future, Vivian is excited to see how all of our leaders and cast continue to grow as individuals, within their teams and together as a company. “Disney is unique, we have the ability to influence, grow and shape how people think about the world around them. I believe we make a difference in the lives of people through everything from the small gestures of kindness to biggest examples of immersive experiences.”
As Vivian reflects back on her journey to today, her advice to others is that, “There really is a great big, beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of everyday… believe in yourself and your dreams, the journey to bring those dreams to life will be amazing!”
For more inspiring stories like Vivian’s, you can also follow along with our Disney Parks, Experiences and Products social handles – Instagram: @DisneyParksBlog, Twitter: @DisneyParks, and Facebook: @DisneyParksBlog – as we continue to bring you stories year-round.