‘Leadership requires us to challenge ourselves and our employers’

Sharon Cronin from Schneider talks about what women leaders need and what they need to do to reach their potential at work.

Women in leadership: overcoming the barriers


For International Women’s Day 2021, Sharon Cronin, Marketing Manager for Ireland at energy and digital solutions firm Schneider Electric, reflects on the topic of women in leadership.

In the 1930s my great-grandmother paid 20 Irish punts, a substantial sum at the time, to have my grandmother (Margaret “Dolly” Madigan) trained with a tailor as a dressmaker. This investment led to my grandmother starting her own dressmaking business and winning several contracts, including providing the nurses uniforms for Barringtons Hospital.

Dolly had six employees and a thriving business through countless contracts and private dressmaking. She also went on to fall in love, get married and have two beautiful daughters. Women in leadership roles is not new, but it is evolving and thankfully becoming more commonplace.

I am a member of the zone marketing leadership team at Schneider Electric as well as the Ireland country management team with the aim of ensuring the voice of the customer/market is always heard for the Irish market.

Prior to Schneider Electric I worked in several companies within the technology space, spending almost a decade with Majesco, a global leader of software as a service solutions to the insurance industry as the EMEA Marketing Manager.

One of the key attractions of working in marketing for me is the ability to work with a wide range of diverse people as my position allows me to work across multiple departments, business units and organisations. For me, it means that every day is different and I love that everyone I work with brings something new and distinctive to the table. I am a firm believer that when you are dealing with people every day then you never stop learning.

Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland, has always been a great inspiration to me, both in terms of her career progression in a male-dominated environment but also her outlook on the importance of having a work-life balance.

I had the pleasure of getting to know her through Piranha Triathlon Club through early morning sessions in University College Dublin’s Olympic swimming pool and learnt first-hand how she always made time for staying fit and underlining the importance of exercise to keep balance in your working life.

There have been studies that have shown women won’t apply for a job unless they feel they meet 100% of the criteria, whilst men will apply after only meeting 60%. Women need to learn to push themselves out of their comfort zone and believe in themselves in order to progress in their careers. Women need to trust more in their own value, if they don’t believe in themselves then why should anyone else? Anne is a good example of someone who has continuously pushed herself out of her comfort zone and with great success, eventually leading to her current role as CEO of Vodafone Ireland.

Challenging yourself

I have had several informal mentors in the past. Whether formal or informal I think it is always important to have someone who you can turn to to ask for advice in your career, but also someone who can help you challenge yourself. Personally, it has worked well for me to seek mentorship from people whose personalities and strengths are quite different from my own. This has resulted in me being able to challenge myself in areas where I have been weaker.

Addressing these weaker areas, whilst difficult or uncomfortable initially, will always result in improving your skillsets and building your confidence to work in new areas and spot opportunities that you may not have considered in the past.

Common traits that I admire about leaders I have worked with in the past include: never being afraid to challenge the status quo, asking questions and being confident enough to disclose the areas they are not experts in, and asking the uncomfortable questions but always being mindful of staying personable with people, making sure they continue to build those relationships.


My grandmother’s mother became sick and the pressures of family life led to her eventually giving up her business. Unfortunately, the support was not there for a woman who was torn between family life and running her business. Two generations later, my parents invested in my education, helping me to complete a MSc in Marketing.

I too, fell in love, got married, and had two beautiful daughter. However, I have been very fortunate to have the support in place that allow me to continue my career whilst also maintaining a balance that works for me and my family.

I am acutely aware of my good fortune and endeavour to pay that forward through my leadership role in Schneider Electric and as a mother to my young daughters. Women in leadership is not a new concept, but it is constantly evolving and it is up to us to continue to choose to challenge the status quo to support the next generations.


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