Pamela Landwirth is president and CEO of Give Kids The World in Kissimmee, Florida. For more than 20 years, she has worked to expand the reach of the nonprofit organization that provides a holiday for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. In 2017, she was inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame with her partner in philanthropy, Henri Landwirth.


Thoughts on Women in the Industry

What is the most pressing issue facing women in the workplace today, and how can the attractions industry influence positive change?
The issues that women continue to face in the workplace are equal pay, opportunities for growth, finding a healthy balance between life and career, and, unfortunately, as recent news has shed new light on—harassment. The attractions industry can, through education, awareness, and HR practices, lead by example. The opportunities in each of those areas are endless.

How have you seen the industry evolve in regard to gender roles?

There has not been as much progress as one would hope. A huge step forward in the overall evolution was made in 2006 when Meg Crofton became president of Walt Disney World, the first female president in its then 35-year history. However, unfortunately, that did not open the floodgates throughout the industry.  
How have you built your network of women in the industry?
I have met many amazing women in the industry by virtue of my extensive travels as CEO of Give Kids The World. Attending all of the IAAPA Expos has been a critical part of building this network, and I have been blessed to continue the relationships I built as a part of my wonderful career at Disney.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to convey to women starting their attractions careers?

Embrace every opportunity presented to you, even if you’re not sure where it might lead. Don’t get so singular in focus that you miss out on some incredible adventures and opportunities for growth. Venture outside of your comfort zone. Everything you do will prepare you for what lies ahead in your career and open doors you never thought possible.

Creating Careers of Distinction

How do you invest in yourself as a leader?
By being a voracious reader, asking a lot of questions, and spending as much time as possible with our dedicated team on the front line of the guest experience.
What is your most cherished work principle?
It’s a powerful thing when a career and a passion collide, like capturing lightning in a bottle! Never lose your passion for what you do.

What do you consider your most significant career accomplishment?

To date, I would have to say it’s the transformation of virtually every aspect of Give Kids The World that I have been part of during my 25 years with the Village. We’ve more than doubled in size, grown from 56 to 168 villas, added 11 new venues and attractions, quadrupled our weekly volunteer shifts from 421 to over 1,600, and significantly grown our number of partners and donors.  But most importantly, it’s the growth in the number of families we have served.
However, what keeps you going is the belief that you haven’t yet had your most significant accomplishment – it’s still out there waiting to be achieved.

What has had the greatest impact on your career?
I think it boils down to a quote from William Shakespeare: “The meaning of life it to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”  My career at Disney helped me find my gift.  The incredible, diverse opportunities in operations management, Casting, HRD, public speaking, openings and task forces both domestic and internationally, provided an amazing springboard.  Now I am extraordinarily blessed to use all of those gifts to create the happiness that inspires hope for the precious families we serve at Give Kids The World.
What has been the greatest challenge of your career?
Getting others to embrace my lack of patience! Not sure that I have overcome it.
What was the greatest piece of career advice you ever received?

My father, who was successful both in business and later in life in the ministry, was my greatest professional influence. He was extremely supportive, giving me feedback and advice. One of the most valuable pieces of advice was “if you are pleasing everyone you are not doing your job.” As a leader, you simply cannot make everyone happy with all of your decisions. 

The Future of the Industry

Why did you join and choose to stay in the attractions business?
It was more serendipity than anything else. I had no intention of joining or making the attractions industry my career. It was going to be just a six- to nine-month “gig” while waiting to start law school. But I fell in love with the industry almost immediately and have been blessed to be part of it my whole career (more years than I care to admit!).

What makes you most passionate about the industry?
That it is an industry focused on what’s right in the world; bringing joy, providing an escape from the “real world,” and creating lifelong memories.

​​Know a professional we should talk to? E-mail Prasana William, IAAPA manager, digital content and strategy.


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