by MARY KAY RUSSELL, executive director, Women in Toys, Licensing, & Entertainment

Women in Toys, Licensing, & Entertainment honored Pam Kaufman as Mentor of the Year at the 2019 Wonder Women Awards, which was presented by Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm president and Kaufman’s personal friend. She pays it forward every day as president of Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products and as a WIT Advisory Board member. Her unwavering strength to lead is a true testament to the mentors who impacted her along the way.

Kaufman moved the room as she gave her acceptance remarks with her stories of reflection, inspiration, and encouragement. She paid tribute to her mentors with her trademark authenticity and razor-sharp humor.

Kaufman explained how mentoring is a path for us to see more parity in the boardroom. “Pure and simple, mentorship is a direct path to leadership,” she said. Kaufman shared how mentorship plays a key role in her success and how important it is to contribute meaningfully to the lives of others. She elevated the value that mentorship has on future generations, vowing to dedicate her career to empower the next generation of leaders.

Kaufman inspired and fired up the crowd of 800 women and men to be better leaders, and her message resonated with me both professionally and personally. I was inspired to take action and to mindfully practice mentorship every day in my role as WIT’s executive director and as a mother of four young men, who are just starting out in the business world.

Here are the five guiding principles in Kaufman’s philosophy on mentorship that she shared during the Wonder Women Awards.

1. Make everyone feel heard.

This was a lesson Kaufman picked up from her mom. She talked about the importance of making everyone in the room feel included, acknowledged, and heard.

2. Motivate, motivate, motivate.

Every leader should be the chief motivational officer for their team.

3. Willingly share your successes and failures.

A good mentor will share her failures with others so they can be better.

4. Always shine a light on others.

Kaufman expressed that one of the most important leadership skills is shining a light on others, acknowledging each other, and celebrating each other’s achievements.

5. Don’t take your title, or yourself, too seriously.

Kaufman learned this from Kennedy, who she calls her “Obi-Wan-Kenobi.” She stressed that — regardless of any title you may have — you should always put the work first and take on any task to get the job done.

Pam Kaufman WIT Mentor of the Year 2019 Wonder Women Awards

Kaufman encouraged us all to make mentorship part of our daily life and job description. She left us with a few questions to ponder:

1. How are you going to make sure people in the room feel heard?
2. How can you take on the role of chief motivational officer?
3. How will you pass on the lessons you’ve learned?
4. Who are you going to shine a light on today?

Mary Kay Russell is executive director at Women in Toys, Licensing, & Entertainment and The WIT Foundation, a global nonprofit organization that champions the advancement of women through leadership, networking, and educational opportunities. Prior to her role at WIT, she worked in the toy industry in multiple roles, such as a marketing professional, inventor, and manufacturer.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the Toy Book.