WiT Announces Honorees for the 2023 Wonder Women Awards
August 22, 2023 - New York - Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT), the preeminent nonprofit trade organization dedicated to the advancement and advocacy of women, today announced the distinguished honorees of its 2023 Wonder Women Awards. These remarkable women will be honored at the WiT Wonder Women Awards Gala, set to take place on Sunday, October 1, 2023 at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers in New York City. The in-person event honors and celebrates the extraordinary women executives, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are driving the toy, consumer products, licensing and entertainment industries forward.
Honorees for the 18th Annual Wonder Women Awards are Visionary Leader Award recipient, Laura Zebersky, President of Jazware; Trailblazer Award recipient, Lisa McKnight, EVP and Chief Brand Officer at Mattel; and Future Leader Award recipient, Nyla Hayes, CEO of Nyla Collection LLC and creator of the Long Neckie NFT Collection.
LAURA ZEBERSKY, VISIONARY LEADER HONOREE: Following a successful 13-year career as a highly regarded trial attorney, Laura joined Jazwares in 2005. She began her career at Jazwares in licensing, but her unique ability to create meaningful consumer experiences and put customers first led Laura to a role in sales in which she built a world-class global sales organization. With her finger on the pulse of what’s next for consumers and the latest technologies, Laura has been instrumental in identifying, building, and selling some of the most transformational brands in our industry. Laura’s pursuit of creating exclusive value-added experiences led to Jazwares being the pioneers of downloadable digital game codes that today continue to set the company apart.
Under her leadership, Jazwares evolved its Roblox branded business into the preferred home for top game developers on the platform making way for DevSeries, a collection of the most popular games on the platform. With DevSeries, Jazwares is now creating toys for the hottest metaverse gaming brands and working closely with their developers to grow these properties individually. She has played a key role in transforming the Squishmallows brand into the #1 best-selling plush toy as well as the #2 overall best-selling toy property in the entire industry. Laura continues to take play to new levels, and recently ushered in new divisions of Costumes, Pets, and a Game Studio, with more to come.
Laura’s unwavering commitment to philanthropy has helped expand “Jazwares Cares,” a vital, give-back branch of Jazwares dedicated to supporting children's health, well-being, and education through play. As a natural extension of her dedication to philanthropy, Laura is the current Chair of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida Board. As the Board Chair, Laura is heavily involved in the development efforts of the Finker-Frenkel Wish House in South Florida, a new state-of-the-art building under construction, that will create and extend the impact of wish experiences for children with critical illnesses.
In 2017, Laura was recognized by WiT with the prestigious Wonder Woman in Manufacturing Award. She is passionate about mentoring and collaborating with strong women to drive creativity and innovation in the industry further.
LISA MCKNIGHT, TRAILBLAZER HONOREE: Lisa McKnight is Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer of Mattel. She joined Mattel in 1998. In her current role, Lisa oversees all of Mattel’s toy categories and global brands, as well as design and development.
Lisa has held several senior leadership positions at Mattel for nearly 25 years, including the global head of Barbie since 2016 and Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls since 2019 where she oversaw the entire Dolls portfolio for Mattel, and led a global team in brand strategy, product development, and marketing execution. Prior to leading Barbie in 2016, she was the SVP of Marketing for North America working across the Mattel portfolio.
Credited with leading the transformation of Barbie, under Lisa’s leadership, Barbie was the #1 Global Toy Property for 2020 and 2021 and the #1 Global Doll Property for 2020 through 2022. She has also driven the significant expansion of Mattel’s portfolio, including winning back the licensing rights to the Disney Princess and Disney Frozen franchise and the successful relaunch of Monster High. Forbes recognized Lisa as one of the top brand marketers in the world for 2023.
She has led the charge in defining Barbie’s global social mission with the launch of the Barbie Dream Gap Project in 2018, a multi-year initiative dedicated to leveling the playing field for every girl. Since launch, the program has positively impacted over 25 million girls.
Prior to Mattel, Lisa held agency advertising roles supporting clients like Taco Bell and Fairmont Hotels before transitioning to a marketing role at Gap, Inc.
Lisa has served on the boards of MAKERS Women and the Toy Industry Foundation, with a focus on the DE&I committee and was previously the executive sponsor of Women of Mattel employee resource group. Lisa is a member of Women in Toys, through which she serves as a mentor to women in the toy, licensing, and entertainment industries.
NYLA HAYES, FUTURE LEADER HONOREE: At 13-years-old, Nyla wowed the NFT world when she created the "Long Neckie Ladies'' collection, the first female-led, all-women generative art collection on the Ethereum blockchain, currently worth nearly $3.4 million in digital currency. The collection features diverse women with elongated necks inspired by Nyla’s favorite dinosaur, the Brontosaurus.
In 2021, TIMEPieces, a web3 community initiative by TIME, announced Nyla as its first-ever Artist-in-Residence, a title for which an artist is selected quarterly to develop an intimate, focused collection of art, in addition to the larger initiatives featured in the Build a Better Future Genesis Collection, which included 40 artists and 4,676 pieces. As Artist-in-Residence, Nyla’s collection for TIMEPieces, "Long Neckie Women of the Year," featured 1,000 unique pieces of the 100 women named to TIME's "Women of the Year," including Nyla’s favorite artist Frida Kahlo, Michelle Obama, Toni Morrison, Beyoncé, Billie Holiday, Amelia Earhart, Coco Chanel, Madonna, and more.
In 2021, Nyla was NFT.NYC's Emerging Artist of the Year and received a Future 50 Tech Award, and this year, she was named to AfroTech's Future 50. Nyla is the founder of NFT Children’s Day and has been featured in TIME and TIME for Kids. You can see more of Nyla's collection on OpenSea.
"We're truly thrilled to celebrate these exceptional honorees, each one of them is a tremendous source of inspiration for all of us," said Ehi Oviasu Kahn and Nancy Molenda, Co-Chairs of the Wonder Women Awards. "Their personal journeys serve as a powerful reminder of our shared capacity to thrive together. They personify the realm of possibilities that emerge when passion, determination, vision, and collaboration come together."
WIT thanks its generous 2023 sponsors, including Amazon, Mattel, Paramount, Hasbro, Spin Master, LEGO, The Bandai Foundation, Jazwares, TOMY, and the many sponsors who support the organization year-round and help contribute to the success of the Wonder Women Awards. Proceeds from this event are used to fund scholarships, develop and maintain a full calendar of programs and networking events, and support initiatives for WIT’s members and its community.
To learn more and purchase tickets/tables, or to sponsor the WIT Wonder Woman Awards, please visit www.womenintoys.com
ABOUT WOMEN IN TOYS, LICENSING & ENTERTAINMENT
Founded in 1991, Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT) / The WIT Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to advance women through leadership, networking and educational opportunities. WIT serves and supports women at all stages of their careers, from entrepreneurs and startups to seasoned industry veterans. The WIT Foundation grants scholarships to deserving students enrolled in industry-related undergraduate programs. WIT has 25 chapters throughout the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, France, the UK and Australia, with liaisons in Finland, Germany, India and Lebanon.