Singleton Beato, Global EVP, and Chief DE&I Officer at McCann World Group is an award-winning executive with over 25 years of experience developing and spearheading global initiatives that increase organizational capacity, innovation, and growth.
She is best known for constructing bespoke tools and contemporary methods to drive cultural change through an effective Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy. Singleton considers herself a visionary architect who applies a pragmatic approach to designing frameworks and solutions that align leadership and ignite transformation.
When she joined McCann Worldgroup in 2017, Singleton was already a globally recognized Diversity expert. Since then, she has led the charge to accelerate DE&I progress across the enterprise, galvanizing the people of Worldgroup as a community that is magnetic to great talent – representing diverse social, cultural, and cognitive backgrounds and abilities – with the ambition of contributing to creative work that authentically resonates in every corner of the world.
Discovering and studying the multidimensionality of diversity
Singleton’s career in DE&I came about in a very organic way. Early on, she was fascinated with multiculturalism and ethnicity in society, as well as the concept of race, and what it truly meant in her life and the world at large. In fact, she had participated in social justice marches with her mother before she was 10 and, as an African American family living on the south side of Chicago, her entire household was actively engaged in the political discourse around issues of equity and equality.
Singleton even recalls being 15 years old and launching a debate at her high school around the terminology used to describe people of various ethnicities. “I asked some of my fellow students what the word ‘Black’ meant to them, in the context of race. It is important to note that I was at a majority White school in the 80s, so my peers had no clue how to answer the question that I proposed to them,” she remarks.
Only a few years later, Singleton would meet her husband Marino Beato, whose family had immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Their union would be challenged by the very issues of racism that perpetuate negative bias and division among people of color.
She shares that “Marino’s parents, still relatively new to the U.S. in the late ’80s, were not supportive of their son’s relationship with an African American woman – despite their own Black African heritage and lineage indigenous to the island of Hispaniola.”
Of course, fast-forwarding 30 years, she credits this experience as the very fuel that drives her unyielding passion for Singleton’s fascination with the deep roots of ethnocentrism and the mythology of Black people in America.
This pivotal lesson from her personal life proved useful when Singleton found herself working at a multinational company where she developed and oversaw the company’s immigration and relocation program, which taught her more than she could have ever imagined about cross-cultural psychology and how important it is to for companies to consider the nuanced facets of diversity if they intend to compete on the global stage.
As her career advanced, Singleton continued to deepen her competency in the space of equity, equality, and inclusion within the corporate context, from both a micro and macro perspective. And the culmination of these personal and professional experiences inspired her to focus her graduate studies on global culture, and how social systems influence the norms and values of communities around the world.
Taking on a DE&I leadership role at the American Association of Advertising Agencies was a natural next step, thanks to her wealth of knowledge about the multidimensionality of diversity. After a series of successes there, she was well-positioned to tackle her current role at McCann Worldgroup leading DE&I work for the network. The rest is history.
The conditions where creative thinking and innovative ideas abound
McCann Worldgroup is a global leader in the marketing and communications industry, where the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department is a key business discipline that exists independently of HR – influencing not just how teams collaborate, but also the solutions and products they develop for their client partners.
Part of the organization’s ambitious strategy is to implement the structural and systemic changes required to guarantee that the talent, clients, and consumers that the agency’s clients serve feel seen, heard, represented, and appreciated in the workplace, the marketplace, and their communities.
Singleton points out some of their work and the impact it has had, from such famous ad campaigns as Coca-Cola’s Hilltop commercial, where a crowd of singers showed the world the beauty of diversity – in perfect harmony; the work with L’Oréal which continues to show all women around the world feel that they are worth it – at any age; and the Fearless Girl whose very presence across from the New York Stock Exchange ignited a movement, and continues to be a resounding symbol, supporting female empowerment that will live on forever.
Singleton maintains that the company vision at McCann Worldgroup is to be the irrefutable leader in the business of creativity. She feels extremely blessed to work with leaders who fully understand that, to realize this vision, they must create the conditions in each of their agencies where people representing diverse and historically marginalized communities feel invited to share their unique perspectives.
Singleton remarks that it’s common knowledge that these are, in fact, the conditions where creative thinking and innovative ideas are ignited and encouraged to flow freely. She insists that this link between creative excellence, growth, and Conscious Inclusion is the foundation that has, and will continue to inform and drive, the DE&I strategy across the enterprise.
“It is particularly critical, because we are in the creativity business, and creativity requires an environment of mental and emotional freedom, openness, as well as psychological safety,” Singleton remarks. The other area of focus for her department is on inclusive business practices, which ensure that the end-to-end creative process itself is free of bias, to the degree that they can make it, so the behavioral and structural barriers to inclusion within business operations at each agency are mitigated.
Helping employees feel a sense of connection, belonging, and shared purpose at work
Singleton explains that McCann Worldgroup’s mission is to earn a meaningful role in people’s lives. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to being able to deliver on this mission, especially given the increasing diversity of the global marketplace.
Under her leadership, diversity is defined as the presence of different identities within a given setting. McCann Worldgroup takes a very broad view of diversity, understanding that it can be defined differently, based on where you are in the world, where you come from, and what your beliefs are.
Singleton notes that this point has been critical in McCann’s work. Through several initiatives, McCann affirms that each team member’s unique perspective is essential to amassing the level creativity needed to make groundbreaking, market-moving work.
Singleton’s contribution began with crafting the global vision, mission, and philosophy that galvanize McCann’s network around a common language, culture-shifting traditions, and a unified approach to DE&I.
Her team provides leadership and guided support to ensure that key principles of equity and inclusion are integrated across both their talent and business practices. One area, talent practices, is focused on strategic interventions that mitigate bias throughout the employee experience. She says the goal is to ensure that key principles of inclusion become so deeply embedded into the day-to-day that all employees, especially those from traditionally marginalized groups, feel a sense of connection, belonging, and shared purpose.
Singleton maintains that, while there’s no such thing as a typical day at her job, no matter the task at hand, her focus is on inspiring those in decision-making positions to be consciously inclusive in their daily behaviors and decisions, so they can collectively create the conditions where innovative and creative thinking can thrive. She emphasizes that “once all people feel affirmed in our agencies, as a matter of course, the creative frequency at which we operate will elevate to an unimaginable level. We want our people to feel, not only welcome to share their diverse perspectives at work but safe and compelled to do so.”
Success is contributing something meaningful and positive to the world
The best recognition Singleton says she has received was the AdColor Change Agent award, the Diversity Educator Award from the American Advertising Federation, and being named one of AdWeek’s Women Trailblazers, as well as the invitation to be on the Board of Directors of AdColor, New York Women in Communications, Figure Skating in Harlem, the Erwin Center for Brand Communications, and the Brand + Integrated Communications program at the City University of New York.
“The people who determine who is invited to help lead these organizations, or to be recognized by them, are industry luminaries and lauded business executives. I’m honored that those same people felt my background and career accomplishments represented something meaningful and valuable,” she continues, noting that “the opportunity to serve alongside leaders so deeply committed to breaking the barriers to equity and inclusion in business, paving the way for the next generation is an honor that no words can properly convey.”
While Singleton believes that everyone must define success for themselves, she notes that “one can find success in achieving a goal that requires very little mental or physical exertion and impacts only the individual, or in solving a large-scale challenge that impacts groups of people in a significant way. But a life well lived is one in which we appreciate, and can find success in, both small and large things.”
Singleton also observes that how she measures success now is different than it was when she was 18 years old and just starting out in her professional career. “Back then, success was landing the job that I wanted, and getting the recognition from my superiors that I so badly craved. Today I define success as bringing the best of what I have to offer to those people in my life about whom I care the most,” she affirms.
In fact, at a certain point, Singleton made the decision to move both her in-laws (yes, the same people who struggled with race-based bias decades before), along with her grandmother into her home.
Around the same time, her 16-year-old son, who had been diagnosed with ADHD, severe generalized anxiety disorder, and major depression, came out as bisexual – which posed an interesting challenge to his father, who had grown up Catholic and had become a Baptist minister. Once again, Singleton’s personal life would present an important lesson on how diverse perspectives and experiences can have a meaningful impact on the world.
Singleton’s experiences taught her that embracing diversity in the home is the best way to bring authenticity to spreading the message to others. In other words, it’s important to walk the talk when it comes to understanding and championing diverse points of view.
Challenges help us learn more about who we are
Agreeing that challenges absolutely, without a doubt, make you stronger – Singleton insists that, if you’re not challenged, there is literally no way for you to learn, grow, and reach your full potential.
“The roadblocks that taught me the best lessons manifested when someone doubted my ability to solve a complicated business problem, or someone in a decision-making role told me something was impossible, and I knew it was not,” she recalls. “There were also the barriers created by those who saw my success as a threat to their own – this is particularly upsetting when it’s someone who you assumed to be your friend or mentor.”
And even those scenarios presented an emotional roadblock that made Singleton doubt her worth. She believes this to be the toughest challenge to overcome, but one that “builds depth of strength that serves you well as you move forward in your life.”
Singleton points out that, while the limited or narrow thinking of others may pose a barrier, each barrier presents an opportunity for us to learn more about who we are.
“Pushing against these challenges made me stronger and more confident in my ability to get through adversity,” she declares. “These experiences also helped me to build trust in myself and my instincts, and that is an invaluable lesson in business and in life. To be sure, if you aren’t challenged, you aren’t growing.”
Influencing people to make brave, informed, educated choices
In terms of influencing a change in the next generation, Singleton observes that we sometimes forget that people pay attention to not just what we say, but also what we do.
“I hope to influence people by demonstrating inclusive leadership and sharing my personal story or professional experiences with others. Certainly, I’ve made my share of poor choices, and I’ve not been successful at everything I’ve tried to do,” she remarks.
However, she insists that she has learned just as much from failure (note the plural there), as she has from the choices that have had positive outcomes. She hopes to support people early in their career journey in need of mentoring or advice.
“My goal is to lean into any opportunity to use the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career and share them. If we can inspire young people to make brave, yet informed, educated choices – to be open and curious about the unfamiliar, I know this generation will benefit,” she maintains.
The impact of economic conditions on prioritizing DE&I
Singleton observes that the business landscape today is rife with challenges and controversy, with vulnerable communities around the world suffering the most. While this is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion must be seriously considered and championed by corporations if they expect to gain and retain consumers.
She believes that the business community will be impacted by monumental disruptions in the economic ecosystem that negatively impact traditionally marginalized groups, women, and children, as well as the political issues that are jeopardizing the very foundation of democracy – everywhere it has been enjoyed until now.
Singleton connects these issues to the struggle to keep DE&I top of mind in the C-Suite, as it was two years ago, asserting that minority groups will bear the brunt. “We have an incredible Truth Central team at McCann Worldgroup that provides brands with the insights that support this statement and so much more in our Truth About Diversity study,” she exclaims.
Keeping the team motivated with a balance of work, fun & support
Singleton admits that she struggles with work-life balance. She has embraced the notion of work-life integration, allowing herself to be flexible and more fluid in how she approaches her day-to-day. This extends to how she leads her department.
“I keep my team motivated by providing consistent support to them and hopefully some laughs along the way. My team is very small. We trust and appreciate each other. I believe, or I hope, that I have cultivated a positive team spirit where each member feels that they are part of doing work that is purposeful and, at times, exciting or fun,” she remarks.
“The level of respect and appreciation I have for the people on my team is beyond measure,” she declares. “Being able to work with them each day is a blessing, and all I can do is strive to make them proud of the choice that they make, each day, to be part of the journey we’re on together.”
Spend time developing relationships & soft skills
Singleton intends to keep growing and doing work that is of value and service to others. Her message to aspiring business leaders is to spend time developing relationships.
“My mother always used to say the most important things are our relationships, and as usual, she was right. As I’ve grown in my career, I realized that my accomplishments are completely due to the relationships that I’ve acquired over the years,” she observes.
Singleton also recommends that aspiring business leaders – especially those who have grown up trying to convey a fully coherent point of view in 180 characters or less – should develop very strong written and oral communication skills, as many of the people who will be the leaders of tomorrow are lacking strong competency in this regard.
Singleton’s final words of wisdom are that social and interpersonal skills are critical for anyone who intends to be able to manage or lead others, and are particularly important if one intends to inspire or motivate people to work together to solve business problems now, or in the future. But most importantly, she asserts that young people should strive to be brave and present as they move through life. “When you are young, you can afford to take chances that help uncover what you are good at, what your true passions are, and the relationships that can help you navigate the journey ahead. Don’t take it for granted – go out into the world, try things, fail, learn, succeed, learn, achieve, and then give back to the generation behind you. That’s what it’s all about.”