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Promotion WIDE_Tanesha

Chicago Bears promote Tanesha Wade to EVP of diversity, equity and inclusion & chief impact officer

The Chicago Bears on Wednesday promoted Tanesha Wade to executive vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion & chief impact officer. Wade will continue building and leading the club's DEI efforts while utilizing the power of the Bears' brand to enhance the team's impact in the community.

Story by Gabby Hajduk

In 2013, Tanesha Wade believed she had found her dream job. As the new director of events and entertainment for the Chicago Bears, Wade was in charge of creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences for fans at Soldier Field on gameday and at events throughout the year.

Wade's passion for sports and the emotional experiences they produce stemmed from her childhood when she watched Bears games with her father and fell in love with playing basketball. Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, where the only professional sports in town were arena football and minor league baseball, she latched onto Chicago's sports teams. She admired the city's undeniable loyalty to its teams and aimed to give special moments back to fans in her role with the Bears.

Through those moments, Wade found purpose in finding a way to give back and create new opportunities for fans every day, not just on gamedays at Soldier Field.

"When I was offered the role, I thought, 'This is it. I am not doing anything else. This is the most amazing opportunity,'" Wade said. "And it was. It was amazing — interacting with fans. There are community ties of being able to provide unique experiences and memories to young people. Creating those experiences, that was my bread and butter."

Her search for a larger calling aligned perfectly with the Bears' vision of creating a more diverse culture at the club. In 2019, the Bears brought in a diversity consultant to evaluate the club's culture. One of the changes that emerged from that evaluation was the creation of a diversity, equity and inclusion council of which Wade became a co-chair. Two years later, the Bears continued to evolve in that space and Wade took on a new role with the club as senior vice president of the newly created DEI department.

"What excited me about serving in this new role was that it was an authentic effort driven by George McCaskey and our entire ownership," Wade said. "It came from a genuine place of reflection and how we can be better as a club by bringing in leaders from different backgrounds, experiences and industries as well as developing existing talent. It was positioned to be a sustainable effort — a long-term journey. It was not a short-term initiative that gradually fell off as a priority, but instead was introduced and integrated into our club's long-term strategy."

In nearly three years, Wade has championed DEI throughout every department of the organization. As a result of her leadership and guidance, the club's efforts have led to notable progress, including the creation of a sports industry career exposure program for local students, introduction of Bears employee resource groups and launch of a women's advisory board, among other achievements. Wade also served on the search committees that helped hire general manager Ryan Poles in 2022 and President & CEO Kevin Warren in 2023.

As an extension of those efforts, Wade has once again been elevated to a newly created position: executive vice president of DEI and chief impact officer.

Along with continuing to provide strategic guidance and support around the club's internal DEI efforts, Wade will oversee the external DEI strategy which encompasses community relations, player and alumni relations as well as philanthropic efforts through Bears Care, the organization's charitable arm. She will also work to build and improve relationships within the community, develop strategic partnerships to foster inclusivity and address social justice issues and empower and amplify marginalized voices.

"This is a natural evolution to how we continue to elevate as a club," Wade said. "DEI is about people; it is about communities which are constantly changing, so we need to be prepared to evolve as well. If we just go through the motions without alignment around this priority, then this effort would not be sustainable. Fortunately, it is the exact opposite and progress is consistently being made across the club. People are learning, growing and contributing daily to help make our brand and organization better and ultimately, become better ourselves.

"It excites me that I can make an impact and contribute in a way that is truly going to make a difference. I am privileged to have support from people at all levels that are of the same mindset. I believe our organization is at an inflection point. For this to continue to be a priority is what makes this an exceptional time to step into this role."

Wade's new position allows her to keep working closely with Warren to further improve the organization's overall culture. In the last year, Warren and Wade have worked together on various projects such as organizing an all-staff trip to Washington, D.C. last spring to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Together, they developed an experience where employees created more personal relationships with each other through education, which will continue to be a priority for the club's people and culture.

Executing that project with Warren was a "pinch me" moment for Wade, who has been inspired by him from afar for over a decade. During her previous job with the University of Minnesota athletic department from 2009-13, Warren was the Minnesota Vikings' chief operating officer. Wade admired Warren's leadership skills and his ability to make positive change at each of his career stops.

"Tanesha is a visionary leader," Warren said. "Her passion in DEI has made a profound and significant impact on our organization in a dynamic fashion. Her dedication to service and innovative approach to social impact are exactly what the Chicago Bears need as we continue to push the boundaries of what it means to be a socially responsible sports organization. I am confident with Tanesha at the helm of these efforts, the Chicago Bears will meet new standards for the National Football League. I am grateful to our chairman George H. McCaskey and the McCaskey family for their focus and support in DEI initiatives and providing me with a platform to promote Tanesha to a new role that will positively impact the Chicago Bears franchise."

As Wade reflects on her career journey, she is proud of her commitment to her childhood dream of working in sports. She attributes her ability to stay on that path to her experiences in college at Oregon State, where she was a member of the women's basketball team. By working in the athletic department with coaches, administrators and student-athletes, among others, Wade was exposed to a variety of roles in the sports industry.

Now, Wade takes pride in using her platform to create similar exposure for the Chicagoland community. Outside of her role with the Bears, Wade serves as an adjunct professor for Northwestern University's School of Professional Studies, an advisory board member for Women in Sports & Events (WISE) Chicago and a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Those and other personal endeavors help her ensure young people of all backgrounds learn about the possibilities in the sports industry.

In her new role, Wade will continue fulfilling her passion and purpose of representing those who may be underrepresented in the industry and making an impact on every community the Bears reach.

"I am proud of the progress that we have made in our DEI efforts and our club's long-standing dedication to community service and philanthropic initiatives," Wade said. "I am also grateful to work for an organization that is open to change and dedicated to forward progress. There is comfort in stillness sometimes, but we are comfortable with discomfort and forging ahead to help make our brand and our people better while doing it unselfishly.

"There is great potential here and I am grateful that our leadership recognizes and has an extraordinary vision for the future. It is a privilege to be a part of a talented and dedicated leadership team committed to bringing that vision to life. I look forward to what is ahead."

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