This award is designed to recognize women whose leadership, vision and commitment to excellence have enriched the collision repair industry. This year’s honorees, to be recognized at WIN’s MIW Gala and Awards ceremony during the association’s May conference in Denver, are Cristina Fronzaglia-Murray, Manager of Marketing Communications for PPG’s Automotive Refinish Division; Renee Ricciotti, Sales and Marketing Manager for 3M Automotive Aftermarket; and Elizabeth Stein, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing for the Assured Performance Network.
WIN Chair Petra Schroeder stated, “Having been with WIN since its inception in 2006, it is wonderful to see firsthand how the MIW program has evolved and grown and how perfectly it aligns with WIN’s mission to ‘enhance the role of women in the industry.’ Every year, I am truly amazed by the diversity of every nominee’s talent and industry involvement. It is my honor to extend heartfelt congratulations to Cristina, Renee and Liz for winning this prestigious award.”
This year’s three honorees graciously agreed to take time from their hectic schedules to chat with Autobody News about some of their accomplishments and what this award means to them. Words like “shocked,” “humbled,” and “respected” were reiterated throughout each interview.
Fronzaglia-Murray had no thoughts of the collision repair industry 23 years ago when, as a recent college graduate, she started working for PPG as a light industrial sales representative in a newly emerging segment for PPG. A decade later, she began working more directly in the automotive refinish division and ultimately took over the communications side of the business, becoming more directly involved with the collision repair industry. Fronzaglia-Murray observed, “There are so many opportunities in this industry – it’s been an awesome ride the whole time!”
Feeling fortunate to work in different roles at PPG, including being the Director of Communications and Marketing, Fronzaglia-Murray has also been afforded the opportunity to host PPG’s SEMA booth each year, and she won a SEMA award for her groundbreaking work--the Athena Champion award--in 2014. Fronzaglia-Murray also sits on PPG’s diversity committee, and she has assumed a mentorship role at PPG. “I get to do the most fun job at PPG every day,” she explained. “And it provides more opportunities to be seen and heard in this field.”
Ricciotti had no intention of entering the automotive industry either. Her father worked for 3M, but as she was interested in sales and marketing, she worked at the Four Seasons Hotel after college until she interviewed for 3M’s automotive aftermarket department in 1994. Ricciotti confessed, “I knew nothing about vehicles. The only thing I knew was that I liked expensive cars.”
Things have definitely changed since then. Ricciotti is proud to have been the first female in many of her roles within 3M, including marketing, business development, and sales leadership positions. Being the first female sales manager at the 100-year-old company is one great example of how Ricciotti has made history within the organization. She was also selected as 3M’s Business Leader to Villanova, representing the company as they recruit positions and serving as a mentor. Ricciotti was previously a board member for the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), and she currently serves on the National Auto Body Council’s (NABC) board and executive committee.
Like her peers, Stein ended up in the industry by accident. She began her career as an entertainment publicist, but finding that industry to be inauthentic, she interviewed for a marketing manager position at Fix Auto in 2003. Stein recalled, “Something just clicked, and I fell in love with it. The people in the collision repair industry are some of the most sincere, hard-working people there are.”
For nearly nine years, Stein worked for Fix Auto, learning as she went and jumping in as needed until she earned the position of Director of Marketing and Membership, and eventually, she helped the company divide into two organizations. In 2011, Scott Biggs, CEO of the Assured Performance Network, approached Stein and offered her a job as Executive Director, promoting her to Vice President of Industry Relations within two years.
According to Stein, “I get to work with some of the same shops I’d come to know, and it’s been great for my family. Our management team is like family, allowing us to be candid with each other. It’s amazing how much we’ve grown through the team approach, becoming the largest certification network in just five years. Certification is based on criteria that helps remove the politics; it’s about proper requirements and ensuring the consumer’s value and safety. I enjoy helping consumers find the right shop and helping shop owners improve their businesses. The ability to help change an industry and see that change is just awesome.”
Stein has also served on the NABC board for the past nine years, after being recruited at 8.5 months pregnant, and helped build the Recycled Rides guide shortly after they’d piloted the program with 25 vehicles. The organization just facilitated the 1400th vehicle donation through Recycled Rides, and Stein expressed admiration for how far the program has come despite being an all-volunteer organization.
Fronzaglia-Murray first became aware of WIN because she was involved with paying the sponsorship bill for a number of PPG ladies who attended the conference. Curious about WIN, she researched the organization, and she determined, “WIN was a wonderful opportunity for females to get more involved in this industry. I felt we needed to get invested in order to become more diverse, and it’s great for women to receive support and be around people who understand what we’re going through.”
When she learned that she had been nominated as a MIW, Fronzaglia-Murray was shocked. She had suggested that PPG nominate someone and was disappointed that they missed the deadline and an opportunity to expose a wonderful woman. She recalled, “I wasn’t looking internally, so I almost died when WIN informed me that I was nominated. I was floored and feel so humbled to be placed in the same category as these women. I’m so proud that my work has made a difference and is being recognized. You don’t really think about what you’re doing and why until someone points it out. We women tend to hold ourselves to a different standard, but it just becomes a part of who you are. It’s great to see the number of bold women coming into this industry and taking charge!”
Ricciotti’s first WIN conference was in 2007 after Stacee Royce recommended it as a growth opportunity, and she has attended every conference since. Describing her feelings about being honored as one of WIN’s 2017 MIWs, Ricciotti said, “I truly feel like a WINner! I’m humbled to be recognized with past and current MIW recipients and grateful that WIN, as an all-volunteer organization, has been able to continue this award. I feel respected by my peers honoring me and grateful for 3M’s support. I feel inspired, unstoppable and fearless, and I just can’t stop smiling.”
“I’ve worked hard, and this award is part of the legacy I can leave for others in the industry and for my 13-year-old daughter,” Ricciotti shared. “It’s like I’ve won the big one – this is a huge deal. If I can win this, I can do anything!”
For Stein, involvement in WIN is about personal development and becoming more knowledgeable about the collision repair industry. She attended her first conference in 2010 and left feeling energized and empowered. “I got so much from the conference,” she said. “WIN includes a great group of women who are there to provide kinship and advice. People don’t remember what you say, but they remember how you made them feel, and I’ll never forget how great I felt after that first conference.”
Stein was amazed when she learned of her MIW nomination. “We all do things where we don’t realize the positive impact we’re making on people’s lives, and when they reach out in appreciation, it validates that you’re doing the right thing. I am so humbled by all the support I’ve received, and I am shocked because I didn’t expect this tremendous honor. I’ve always looked up to my WIN predecessors who’ve broken down barriers, and we continue to break them down for the next generation.”
Looking at the importance of females entering the collision repair industry, Fronzaglia-Murray recounted her mentor, David Chapman, thwarting her fears and excuses when she first began working for him. “I was scared to talk to the men in the industrial segment because they had more experience and knew so much more, but Dave told me, ‘It’ll make you tougher. I’m not asking you to know what they know – I’m looking for a different perspective because we need that to grow the business.’ He was right; we need different people to bring different mindsets because if we stick to the same opinions, none of us grow and flourish.
“I had so many excuses, but Dave wouldn’t let me fail. He was positive and encouraging. You have to thank the people who have challenged you along the way. You may do things differently, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Ricciotti and Stein both agree that diversity of perspective is the most important reason for women to join the automotive industry. Ricciotti observed, “Everyone is more productive when you have more than one kind of voice. It’s good for businesses to have multiple perspectives, and it gives us a great advantage to bring something unique to the table. The collision repair industry is truly a great place to be if you want to be unique, but it takes a special individual who is comfortable with growth, rapid changes, and a challenging environment – it’s never boring! This is the industry for you if you’re inspired and challenged by change.”
Stein added, “It’s all about who’s qualified and who is best for the position. I never want a position I didn’t earn. Being a well-rounded business requires a holistic approach. Women get that, and we add a little something because we offer a different perspective.”
All three MIWs offer similar advice to young ladies who are interested in pursuing a career in the automotive industry. “Do it!" Fronzaglia-Murray encouraged. "It’s a great industry with great opportunities and room for growth. Don’t try to be like anyone else – just be the best you and bring your different opinions and views to the table. Don’t be afraid of failure, but learn from your mistakes. Be yourself.”
Stein’s advice is “Don’t be afraid to be a student. Ask questions, and instead of fearing failure, take on challenges outside the scope of what you know. I wouldn’t be in my current position if I didn’t take risks, and criticism has made me a better professional because results are what matter at the end of the day. Women set their own limitations, but there are so many options in this industry. We have a deficit of and a need for talented people, regardless of gender.”
Ricciotti added, “Invite yourself instead of waiting to be invited, and never give up. Seek companies that look at your capabilities, not your gender; it’s comforting to know that the way people treat you is due to your skills, not because you’re a woman. There will always be challenges, so find a mentor and a great support system like WIN. I never thought I was any different, but I’ve always believed that achieving success is the only option.”