Tai Wingfield | The Innovator 25 North America 2020

Tai Wingfield  

Senior Vice President 

United Minds
(a Weber Shandwick consultancy)  
New York

“If leaders continue to sponsor people with whom they personally identify, we will continue to see a dearth of capable and talented diverse people in leadership roles who are key to opening up new markets and innovation for our industry.”

Tai Wingfield has spent much of the last decade helping companies make diversity and inclusion  a core component of their business, priming her to lead Weber Shandwick’s DE&I’s offering during this year of heightened racial strife — and businesses’ mandate to respond by dismantling systemic racism. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder— and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests — Wingfield spearheaded the creation of Weber Shandwick’s Structural Inequities Task Force, a body comprised of cross-functional experts who together manage and respond to clients’ DE&I needs, identify new business opportunities to broaden the firm’s support of minority owned businesses and conduct internal education programs. In its first six weeks, the task force fielded more than 100 requests from clients in the CPG, banking, retail, health care, tech and entertainment industries among others seeking help in tasks including internal DE&I positioning and commitments, cultural audits and supporting the larger Black community.

Where is the most urgent need for innovation within the PR/communications industry? 
Human-centered data analytics

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
About the same as other marketing disciplines

How have the events of 2020 impacted the the industry's innovation?
More innovative 

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Industry diversity and equal pay

What is the ideal working scenario for innovation?
The ideal working scenario for innovation is having the flexibility to work in a way that enables us to bring our best selves forward.

Has 2020 changed the way you define/approach innovation? How?
2020 has reaffirmed what I have always known to be true: diversity drives innovation.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen this year?
DJ D-Nice's virtual dance parties are a prime example of authentic, inclusive and innovative communication and engagement during a time of adversity. Organically, he created a sense of belonging and community during a time of mental anguish and social isolation. He also provided a roadmap of sorts for brands that want to authentically engage diverse customers. Virtual dance parties will remain a part of our social fabric, post-pandemic.

What is the most important lesson you've learned this year?
Agility and resilience can carry me through any storm.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
I have always pursued roles that require me to build or develop something from the ground up. Prior to joining Weber Shandwick, I built the infrastructure for the first communications function at a diversity and inclusion think tank. While there, I also led research on Black women in the workplace and racial tensions, deepening my diversity subject matter expertise.

Any habit/activity that you have added to your life during Covid-19 that you hope to carry with you when the pandemic subsides? 
I prioritize having meals with my husband and son each day.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity? What is the biggest roadblock standing in the way?
Industry leaders need to be willing to reach across the aisle and sponsor (not mentor) colleagues who do not look like them. Sponsorship is how power is transferred within organizations. If leaders continue to sponsor people with whom they personally identify, we will continue to see a dearth of capable and talented diverse people in leadership roles who are key to opening up new markets and innovation for our industry.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
How do we ensure we invest in building inclusive and equitable workplaces when many employees will remain remote for the foreseeable future?

Bold prediction for 2021 
The move toward social justice and equity will remain a priority for the business community. We will continue to see heightened pressure from employees, consumers and shareholders for the business community live up to the commitments they set forth in 2020.