Created to recognise the achievements of women working in the toy, licensing and entertainment sectors, Women in Toys has been running since 1991, although up until two years ago it was solely a US phenomenon.
Now – on the eve of its first networking event in the UK – the not for profit organisation has expanded into five continents and is in more than 23 countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Spain, South America, Greece and Canada, as well as New York, Southern New England, Chicago and Florida.
“Our goal is to have four events each year in each territory, but right now we are still ramping up,” explains WIT president, Patti Becker. “Each event aims to bring members and non members together in a professional networking environment.”
The association’s most successful event is the Wonder Women of Toys, Licensing and Entertainment Awards Dinner, which is held on the Sunday evening during Toy Fair each February in New York. Award categories include Inventors/Designers, Women to Watch, Online Social Networker and Entrepreneur. 2011’s ceremony is already booked in for February 13th 2011, with nominations being accepted online from September.
Other key events include the annual NPD Networking Breakfast held during Nuremberg Toy Fair, and hosted by Jane Zimmy, president of NPD, plus a monthly ‘Bagels and Brainstorming’ meeting in San Francisco where members get the chance to discuss specific projects, marketing plans and upcoming events.
So, can we expect to see these kind of regular events happening in the UK? Becker certainly hopes so. “We recently appointed two well respected figures within the industry – Helen Howells (commercial director at Target Entertainment Group) and PR specialist Louise Drabwell – as UK co-chairs because they have extensive expertise and contacts, coupled with PR and marketing experience,” she says. “The aim will be to raise awareness through PR, events and, ultimately, word of mouth. We also hope to develop a couple of creative initiatives that will not only provide PR opportunities, but interest from potential members.”
The first UK event will be held on Thursday July 15th at Sway Bar in London, with Becker stating that the response has been good. It costs £30 to attend and bookings can still be made by clicking here.
Despite the moniker, however, it’s not just about those women who work in the toy industry. Or, Becker points out, even just women.
“The WIT mission is to provide a professional networking base for women working with the toy, entertainment and licensing industries, and to acknowledge and promote the achievements of these women. You do not need to be a member to join us on Thursday night, although members do get discounts at all events as well as other benefits.
“And, although WIT was created in part to recognise the achievements of women, we always welcome men at our events. In fact, about 20 per cent of our membership is men! And roughly 50 per cent of the attendees at our Wonder Women of Toys, Licensing and Entertainment Awards dinner in February are men.”
So, what kind of benefits can I expect from being a member of Women in Toys, or even just turning up at the UK event? “WIT provides a valuable opportunity to network with key industry figures, whether someone is looking to sign new licensing deals, find a new job or just extend their contacts, this is the perfect platform” Becker concludes.
If you are interested in becoming a WIT chair in a new territory, or just finding out more about the association, click here to email Becker.