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Owning Up: Women in Leadership Series

Women held 31.7% of top executive positions across industries in 2021. At Stoltz, we know women make great leaders—and we envision a world where there are an equal number of women in leadership as men. We asked several women we admire who hold leadership positions, or are experts in their field, to share their experiences with us and what leadership means for them. Here is one of their stories.

You know when Tracy Hitchcock enters a room. And no, it’s not because of her bold eyeglasses or statement graphic tee peeking out from under her blazer. You can simply feel her energy. She’s cracked the code on showing up authentically at work, and well, anywhere. She laughs, she cries, and most importantly, she gets shit done.

We sat down with our COO, who spent almost 20 years in the agricultural industry where she went from food scientist to Director of Global Innovation for McDonalds, to learn more about what inspires her as a leader.

Was leadership always a goal for your career?

My journey to leadership began in the fourth grade when I first discovered I had an intrinsic understanding of what it meant to bring people along to get a job done. As I progressed into my entry-level position at Simplot, I rallied the team around the tasks at hand—frying 400 lbs of french fries, for example. My career and leadership evolved and french fries turned to process improvements, but my curiosity has never faded. 

How did others help you further that goal?

It started with my mom who helped me understand that regardless of education or circumstance, you can always have a strong handshake, look people in the eye, and represent yourself in an authentic way. I can think of three or four leaders throughout my career who were amazing and helped solidify what I felt was the right way to lead. I also learned a lot from poor leaders who shaped so much of what I did not ever want to be.

Throughout your career, have you sought female leadership or mentorship?

Yes. Growing up professionally in the agricultural industry where there weren’t a lot of women, I sought out female mentors—those women who were doing things differently and were succeeding in a very male environment.

What traits do you find are important in a leader?

Empathy, curiosity, a little bit of sass (or a whole lot). A certain conviction to do what’s right for the right reasons, which doesn’t always end up being right. And the ability to listen and learn from every circumstance and person around you. 

How do you show up as a leader? 

I have a natural affinity to understand human behavior on the individual level. It’s important to me that people feel seen, heard, and valued. I feel a sense of gratification when someone in my little circle of influence succeeds in a way that’s really important to them. I strive to remain open and curious with a growth mindset—I know I don’t know everything. I’m confident and also humble in knowing there’s so much I have to learn. 

I wear my heart on my sleeve, which has given me mixed feedback. You can often see the emotion on my face. When I’m doing it well, my team knows what they’re going to get from me. I don’t want them to be surprised by what is coming out of my mouth. I try for consistency whether it’s pain or joy. I invite people in to help lead and support me as well. It’s definitely a two-way street.

What differentiates a good female leader from a good male leader?

Women tend to think outside of what has been normally done in the realm of business and think more creatively about what’s possible in terms of client relationships, employees, team building, and a company “walking their talk.” As women, we don’t have the paradigms set in place of what leadership is “supposed to look like” because we reject patriarchal paradigms built in the industrial revolution. To put it simply, we see opportunities to do things differently.

Who are some female leaders that inspire you?

Cindy Gallop, the self-proclaimed Michael Bay of business, and Lizzo, a Grammy award-winning musician known for her self-love anthems, are fierce and have a no BS style. These are women who are charismatic, bold, and say what needs to be said in their own way and voice. They have very few “F’s” to give about how they are perceived by the public. And yet, there’s a tenderness and genuineness about them. They’re constantly “making the circle bigger” for the people and initiatives they care about. They cause me to question myself, and I like that. Why am I being more quiet or careful in how I speak to certain issues when those issues actually deserve the full force of my fierceness, intellect, and passion?

It’s not just female leaders in the public eye who inspire me. Jaime, our President and CEO, has a much different style. She’s a quiet ferocity. She’s constantly observing everything and can simplify a complex situation into a clear decision. She also does a really good job of gently bringing people along, which I admire and wish I had more of a deft touch when that style of leadership is needed. 

Are there male leaders who inspire you?

Male leaders are also interested in changing the way that business is done. I have very intentionally invited mentorship from men as well, but it’s important to me they are very wholehearted in their approach. I have two incredible male mentors who are doing that for me and value my style of leadership. They hold a mirror up to me even when I’m not doing it well or right. And of course, there are amazing women in my circle who are doing the same thing.

What advice would you give a woman who is interested in leadership? 

While the landscape is gradually shifting, we’re still in a moment where women, and women leaders, are held to a different expectation in terms of intellect, business, passion, performance—it’s not a level playing field yet. Talk about women as leaders and not just leaders in general. Know your shit. Be confident in your knowledge. But also have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep learning from both the negative and the positive in what you observe in the people around you who are old, young, whatever. Stay curious. You get to decide if what you learn sticks and how to use it.