A Woman Leading in a Man’s World

Susan McGalla learned early on the importance of speaking her mind with confidence. She grew up with two brothers and a father who was a football coach none of whom cut her any slack for being a girl. In order to be heard McGalla developed a strong sense of belief in herself which eventually helped lead her to success in her career. Following a degree in business and marketing from Mount Union College McGalla found herself working for the Joseph Home Company. During an eight year stint with them she gained experience in an array of marketing and managerial roles. However, her career did not truly begin to take off until she began working for American Eagle. In late 1994 McGalla became a divisional buyer of women’s clothing for the company. Many others may have seen her as severely limiting her growth potential with this company that was so throughly dominated by men. At the time American Eagle did not have a single woman on its board or executive team. The company did not even focus very heavily on its women’s clothing line. Where others saw a problem McGalla saw opportunity. Due to her excellent performance and go-getter attitude McGalla began quickly rising through the ranks of the company. Equally adept at talking shopping and football McGalla could quickly put any member of the company at ease with conversation. As McGalla was moving up the ranks on PHX-Corporate from 2000 to 2010 American Eagle began undergoing a significant culture change. More and more women were being assigned to senior leadership positions and the environment became much more egalitarian. This led to one of the most aspirational corporate cultures of the time. McGalla’s rise up the corporate ladder led her from divisional buyer up to president and chief merchandising officer (CMO) of the company’s flagship store. Although this was an incredible achievement McGalla was far from finished. Shortly after this promotion McGalla was appointed president and CMO of the entire company. She had done it, she had reached the top of an organization which left her in charge of $3 billion in revenue, four brands, and a bustling online business. After overseeing the launch of two new brands within American Eagle McGalla had enough of working for someone else and decided to strike out on her own. She began offering consulting services to finance and retail companies across the nation. She doled out expert advice in marketing, branding, and operational efficiencies. Due to her massive success McGalla formed her own firm, P3 Executive Consulting, which she is currently running. Thanks to her grit and determination McGalla succeeded in getting to the top of an organization that was, at the time, dominated by men. By ignoring the naysayers and relying on her confidence as well as her performance she was able to do what many deemed impossible. She can serve as an inspiration not only to women, but professionals everywhere.

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