Susan McGalla: How She Beat the Odds

Executive level positions in business are difficult to attain, especially for women. Diversity, whether from ethnicity or gender, brings a fresh perspective to projects and quandaries. Despite research showing that gender-diverse businesses are 15% more successful than their counterparts, women continue to occupy only 25% of the C-level positions in S&P 500 companies.

All of these don’t seem to matter to Susan McGalla though. Raised with two brothers and a football coach father, McGalla didn’t have it easy growing up. Being a girl didn’t make her life any easier; she still had to work for her goals and learn to get along with both sexes equally well. Having no partial treatment for being a girl while growing up became her biggest asset later in life. She sees no role of gender in business.

McGalla received her bacherlor’s in business and marketing from Mount Union College in 1986. While she started her career at Joseph Horne Company, serving in various managerial and marketing positions, her biggest career expansion came from being with American Eagle Outfitters, where she held various managerial roles. Eventually, she became the chief merchandising officer (CMO) and the president of the company’s flagship brand, and then of the entire company. She was always mindful of her childhood lessons as she moved up the rank.

Exiting American Eagle Outfitters in 2009, she served as the CEO of Wet Seal for one year. Following that, she founded P3 Executive Consulting, which offers expert advice on branding, marketing, operational efficiencies and the like. She currently serves as the vice president of business strategy and creative development for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While Susan McGalla is a successful woman in business, many others are not. A leadership initiative by women is necessary, although not necessarily the solution for bridging the large gap at the C-level positions between men and women. There are plenty of resources and platforms for women to find networks and initiatives needed to become successful in business. Despite a myriad of such resources available to enable women to share ideas, plan business proposals and support one another, the gap remains blatant.

A possible remedy is executive sponsorship, where women invested in their careers would come under the tutelage of an executive. The executive would recommend career-enhancing projects, and help create opportunities for the aspiring woman to succeed in executive positions. Such mentorship and sponsorship can help not only women grow, but also the businesses as they become more diverse.

Read more about Susan McGalla: http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/people/person.asp?personId=10051123&privcapId=332273

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