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Jennifer Skyler joined American Express as chief corporate affairs officer in 2019 after four years leading communications at WeWork, growing the function from the ground up through the company’s heyday. During her time at American Express, Skyler has led initiatives centered around the company addressing some of today’s most pressing issues — diversity & inclusion, climate change and the wellbeing of small businesses among them.
Skyler launched the company’s first ESG strategy which encompasses three core pillars: promoting DEI, building financial confidence, and advancing climate solutions. She also steered American Express’s efforts to help small businesses recover from the Covid pandemic, which included a $1 million grant program in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support historic and culturally significant restaurants in their recovery.
Skyler’s corporate affairs & communications function played a key role in creating the Coalition to Back Black Businesses, a collaboration between American Express, the US Chamber of Commerce and the nation’s four leading Black Chambers — the National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Business League, Walker’s Legacy and US Black Chambers, Inc. — to award $10 million to support Black-owned small business recovery in the U.S. over the next four years.
Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?
I am proud of how our corporate affairs and communications team continues to push the needle to ensure we are backing our colleagues, customers and communities. One of our overarching goals as a team is to support and enhance American Express’ business objectives and strategic priorities, so we recognize that our efforts – whether on the ESG front or through our communications – need to be closely tied to the business. For example, we recently created our Backing Historic Small Restaurants program, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where we provided a total of $1 million in $40,000 grants to 25 Historic Small restaurants in 15 U. states and Puerto Rico. We also put the connection we have with small businesses into action at the height of the pandemic last year when we launched a coalition with the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Business League, the US Black Chambers and Walker's Legacy with a $10 million pledge over four years that will provide grants to Black-owned small businesses. To date, 600 small businesses – of which 58% are Black women-owned businesses – have been awarded grants of $5,000 each.
What have you most admired about this industry over the past year?
We’ve seen companies playing an exponentially more vocal and important role in supporting communities during difficult times and driving positive societal changes. CEOs are becoming the voices that our colleagues and stakeholders look to for assurance and guidance during these times. It has been inspiring to see corporate leaders like our chairman and CEO Stephen Squeri out in front addressing these issues, putting the health and safety of our colleagues first as we continue to confront the pandemic, and using their influence and decision-making power to contribute to great causes.
How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
My children keep me grounded. For example, for me it’s a priority to make time to attend soccer practice or be at their major school functions. They also keep me humble and do a very skilled impersonation of me in meetings now that they have had the chance to hear and experience this firsthand.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
I have been enjoying ‘Ted Lasso’. My daughter plays on a soccer league in New York, and like Ted, I’m still very much learning about the game, but it’s the life lessons taught off the pitch that are the most rewarding.
If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
A TV producer.
Sum up 2021 in one word.
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