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Latina Power
by Jessica Garcia
Feb 12, 2009 | 1549 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href= mailto:dreid@dailysparkstribune.com>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Circus Circus employee Elva Salazar has been at her desk in the casino's accounting department for 5 years.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Circus Circus employee Elva Salazar has been at her desk in the casino's accounting department for 5 years.
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Elva Salazar says working with her colleagues at Reno’s Circus Circus is like being part of a big family that sees through each other’s differences with understanding.

“You feel comfortable,” she said. “It’s an open mind for everybody.”

Salazar, the managerial auditor in charge of compiling revenue data from the casino’s gaming areas, hotel and restaurants, was hired in 2004, first in accounts payable. While much of what she deals with is data, Salazar also helps the company by serving as a Spanish-language translator as needed.

As a Latina, Salazar is one of many employees putting a face on Circus Circus’ interest in diversity, an interest that is helping its reputation. MGM Mirage, the Las Vegas-based corporation that owns Circus Circus in Reno, was recently named by Latina Style magazine to its list of the 50 best places for Latinas to work.

Salazar received the Hispanic Employee of the Year award for Circus Circus in 2007 and was honored at a dinner hosted by Nevada Hispanic Services. She was born in Mexico City and grew up in Los Angeles. She came to Reno when her husband was transferred for his job.

But integrating into northern Nevada as a Hispanic has not been easy, Salazar said. She said she often feels she gets the cold shoulder for being bilingual or that many people assume that she doesn’t speak English.

“They don’t understand the culture or the language,” she said. “And I can agree with them, too. ... Sometimes, they may get uncomfortable.”

But at Circus Circus, she feels respected. She said her ability to translate is highly valued and she is asked several times a month to help out in meetings with unions or is asked for advice with wording for company newsletters, she said.

Jennifer Cunningham, the director of sales and marketing for the Reno Circus Circus, said working with people of various backgrounds is a part of its philosophy.

“The word ‘diversity’ means something to everybody,” she said. Cunningham said the employees of Circus Circus “respect cultures of all different backgrounds.”

“We really bring more to the table when we have a diverse group of individuals,” she said.

Part of the ongoing enforcement of equitable practices among employees are classes Circus Circus offers, which consist of three-day training seminars in which participants learn how it feels to be discriminated against in the work environment. Those who complete the training become diversity champions. Currently, more than 200 employees have achieved that status, Cunningham said.

The face of Hispanic businesses and employees in the Reno-Sparks community has become more prominent since the merging of the Sparks Chamber of Commerce with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Sparks Chamber executive director Len Stevens said the move was important for the local workforce in these hard economic times. The merger, completed in August 2008, provided the Sparks Chamber with 370 additional members. It also provided more opportunities for further training of Hispanics and other workers of different nationalities.

“With this downturn, we’re going to see a whole new set of jobs that out come of this,” Stevens projected. “We see people doing some about-faces with career changes, attaining more education to get better knowledge in various areas of expertise.”

MGM Mirage chairman and CEO Jim Murren said the Hispanic population, particularly Latinas, are an important part of the company’s dealings.

“We are pleased to be acknowledged for our efforts to increase the involvement of Hispanic women in all aspects of our business,” Murren said. “Our guests and company benefit the most when we engage diverse perspectives.”
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