Spotlight On Our Honoree: Pinkie Mayfield ('01)
September 22, 2023
This year, LGW is proud to honor Pinkie Mayfield ('01), Chief Communications Officer and Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Graham Holdings Company, with the 2023 LGW Leader of the Years award. Over the past 30 years, Pinkie has continuously demonstrated a strong commitment to our community through her work with a number of non-profit, community and civic organizations. Passionate about the advancement of women and children through education, she has made a positive impact on the lives of so many in the region. For this spotlight feature, we connected with Pinkie to find out what it feels like to be named Leader of the Years, hear some of her LGW memories, and find out what she's most looking forward to on October 24th!
First things first, what was your reaction to being selected as LGW’s 2023 Leader of the Years?
Wow, the only word that comes to mind is humility- just straight, unadulterated humility. I think that Washington is a place where there are so many people who are worthy of being honored for their service to our community. To think that a leadership organization that happens to be one of the most powerful in the country would choose me? Just straight humility. Most people go about doing their work not thinking about accolades. They think about who to help along the way, and the fact that an organization recognizes my contributions - which seem to pale in comparison to so many. I'm just humble and grateful. LGW is an organization that I love, and I've been in love with it since 2000 when I was accepted into the [Signature Program] class. It has been my heart's joy to be a part of LGW all these years, so now to be honored by LGW - it just takes it to another level. So, I'm truly grateful.
As you know, last year, Diane Tipton was honored as the 2022 Leader of the Years. She has also done a lot of work focused on women and girls, and I know you have as well. Could you share with us your work in that area and how it’s affected you?
My passion is really helping women and girls, especially through education. The reason I'm so passionate about this work is that when you educate a woman or a girl, they bring their whole community with them. A man can leave folks behind. Women bring their circle with them – family, friends and community. They bring their village with them, and I think the empowerment of women in our communities is super important. I think the educational component really is the ultimate equalizer in society. I’m living proof of that. I grew up in very humble circumstances, and if it weren’t for education, you and I wouldn't even be talking right now. I believe that investing in women, investing in children, investing in education – it doesn’t only change our Greater Washington area, it changes the country; it changes the world. And everyone sees how quickly the knowledge economy has grown and how those who are getting left behind are not a part of it. I really believe that investing in women, investing in girls, investing in children and education, elevates us all. It makes us all better. It makes for a better society.
What comes to mind when you hear the word leader? What do you think makes a great leader, an extraordinary leader?
When I hear the word leader, I hear service. I certainly don't call myself an extraordinary leader. Leaders don't need titles, they just lead. Oftentimes in our society folks get caught up in, “oh, I don't have the title, so I don't have a voice here.” And I think that it's really not about you in the world; it's about you for someone else. And you're given these gifts in order to figure out how to elevate society, elevate the world. I was blessed with the gift of education, and I'm using that gift not just in my in my corporate life, but I'm really trying to take that gift and make sure that I pass that gift along to others, opening doors for them to make their mark on the world. Your morals, values and ethics are twisted if you think it’s about you. It’s not! I'm a woman of faith and I believe that God put us here to help each other. Hence, I believe that leadership is really leading without a title. Leaders lead, leaders help, leaders serve, leaders give unselfishly. You don't worry about who's following you in that space because if you're doing the right thing, there's no following. You are arm in arm, leading together, changing things together. So, if you were to look at Pinkie Mayfield’s dictionary, the definition of leadership is service.
Earlier you mentioned getting accepted into the Signature Program in 2000. Could you talk a little bit about your experience back then? Any particular memories or classmates that stand out?
It was life changing. I was one of the youngest in my class - I think there were only two people who were younger than me in a class of 55 or 57. I just remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, a Tuesday every month! I'm so busy, I have so much going on!” But when I tell you it changed the trajectory not only of my career, but of who I am as a person. LGW exposed me to the parts of Washington that I would have never seen or been engaged with. The relationships created in that space are unparalleled! It’s been over twenty years since I graduated from the Signature Program, and I still care deeply about people from my class. I don’t think there’s anyone from my Class who couldn’t pick up the phone right now and call me and I wouldn’t answer. It was an unspoken code back then and it remains true today. One member of the Celebration of Leadership Host Committee, Kathryn Allen, is from my class and also the godmother to my children. Donna Fitzgerald Schuler has been an incredible force of nature in my life. Patty Brooks Nobles - I used to genuflect when I was a youngster at her career and she has mentored and guided me in so many ways. I think about Kerry Pearson, I think about Curtis Boykin, Larry Hinton, Norm Carter, Dario Marquez, Wendy Thompson Marquez, and not to forget the late Diane Bernstein, Sue Selligman, and Dawn Marcus - the names can go on and on. I may not talk to these people often, but they all had an immense, wonderfully fabulous impact on my life. More than twenty years later, I'm now married with kids and it's really interesting to see how LGW has still weaved its web in all aspects of my life. It was so incredibly meaningful for me personally and professionally.
I’ve recently been going through photos from past Celebration of Leadership events and you’ve been in attendance for so many. What are some of your favorite parts of the evening? And how do you think it will be different now that you’re the star of the show?
Well, in my life, dessert is always my favorite part of any celebration (smile). But, seriously, I love the cocktail hour, being able to connect with as many people as possible. However, during the dinner I would love for people to be more respectful in the room – the people on stage are just trying to make things happen, and it’s always my favorite to hear the leader speak from their heart and about their gratitude for the moment. I simply love the camaraderie of it all! It is by far the event to be at if there’s anyone in Washington you want to meet or know, but one must know they’re not coming to this event to be transactional. Folks are coming to let their hair down, to be themselves and celebrate an individual. And that always just warms my heart. I come to every one of these events because I always feel the person on stage has a lifetime of achievement and I’m always inspired hearing their story. Frankly I don’t know what the heck I’m going to say when I’m up there - I just hope that I live up to this amazing honor!
Tickets for the 2023 Celebration of Leadership, which is being held this year on October 24 at the Marriott Marquis in Downtown DC, are on sale now! Don't miss your chance to connect with extraordinary leaders from around the region while celebrating Pinkie as our Leader of the Years. We can't wait to see you there!