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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.

What does it mean to be inspired by Phyllis Neffler of the movie Troop Beverly Hills?

— By Mary Cronin, Vice President, Consumer Access and Experience

I turn forty two this year. 

So much self clarity has come from diving into my fifth decade. I am an achiever and have been since high school. I graduated in three years and double majored in the sciences—and earned two additional degrees before I was thirty. I returned to work less than three weeks after my preemie twins were discharged from the NICU. Professionally, I’ve always been the first person hired into every position I’ve held, snowplowing the path forward. I enjoy solving problems; the harder the better.

I put myself in a position to say “yes” to opportunities and it’s served me well. I’ve acquired a significant level of experience and as a result, have lots of professional options. However, I struggled with being comfortable and confident AS myself in the process. So, I adapted my style and approach to better mirror the qualities I perceived as required to advance, and I slowly lost bits of myself along the way.

The result was a predictable surprise: The more I became someone else, the less effective I was. What worked for others most definitely did not work for me. Things that were easy became hard, and things that were hard became impossible. My swirling self-doubt moved from the background to the foreground.

Then forty hit and it was like I woke from a Sunday nap. A good friend asked me, “how long are you going to dim your light because it makes others uncomfortable?” Wow, what an accountability moment! The truth is, I’ve always had a keen sense of unreasonableness (ask my mom). Pushing boundaries and showing what is possible is the fuel of my life. That girl never went away, it just took some work for me to rediscover and be proud of her.

My favorite movie as a kid was Troop Beverly Hills. I rented it (remember the corner video store?) sixteen weekends in a row when I was nine. I rewatched it last month. As an adult, I’ve struggled to find mentorship, acceptance, and encouragement in the traditional spaces. Thankfully, I found these early on in the character of the troop leader Phyllis Neffler. What I most admire about Phyllis is that she gives ZERO energy to defending her style and ALL her energy to doing HER best. If your best is different, it may make people uncomfortable. It isn’t about being right or wrong, it’s about making space for more options, and safeguarding your energy for good.

I am now in the position to be a Phyllis Neffler in someone else’s story. If I have the courage to be myself, who will be watching and have the courage to be themselves? And what will we as an organization, city, industry, and human race, accomplish as a result?

I have recently realized there are more options than time. Just saying “yes” isn’t going to work moving forward. Rather, more consideration and analysis will be required. So, I ask myself regularly, “what would have to be true about this opportunity, for me to grow and contribute by being myself?” And ultimately, are those attributes in place and am I willing to do the work?

Shifting my perspective has created the space to mature from activity to impact. My goal is no longer to show what I am capable of but rather how I can support our collective success.

For all the achievers, my wish for you is simple—grow, stretch, try lots of things, create your own “hat.” And if you lose yourself in the process, trust yourself to find your way back.

And if any of you know Shelley Long, please thank her for showing me the way.