Despite some contrary opinions, women have made strong gains in the world of politics and big business over the past two decades. Twenty-one U.S. Senate seats are currently held by women. Three of the last five Secretaries of State were women. And in 2016, a woman has a good chance of being elected the 45th President of the United States.
The corporate world also has its share of feminine leaders. General Motors, Hewitt-Packard, IBM, PepsiCo, DuPont and Xerox and numerous other large companies now have women CEO’s at the helm.
For every woman whose name has made the headlines because of her success, there are hundreds of women serving in similar but smaller capacities who are just as capable as those we know by name.
Susan McGalla of Pittsburgh is one of those achievers who have risen to success in the business world without much fanfare. Where most business executives would be content in rising to the top of a single company, Susan McGalla did it twice. She rose up through the merchandising and clothing buying ranks to serve as President of American Eagles Outfitters, then left to become CEO of the young-women’s clothing retailer, Wet Seal, Inc.
Born and raised in East Liverpool, Ohio along with two brothers, McGalla was brought up in a masculine environment headed by her father, a well-known high school football coach. Susan chose to stay close to home for her higher education. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in marketing from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, McGalla headed to nearby Pittsburgh to find her first job.
The hundred-year old department store Joseph Horne Company, known for serving Pittsburgh’s upper class, hired her as a junior buyer in 1986. She quickly learned the basics of clothing retailing and rose through the marketing and managerial ranks. When she left the firm in 1994 to join the American Eagle Outfitters as a divisional merchandiser for women’s clothing, Susan was already recognized an expert in retail clothing management.
After a rapid rise through the corporate ranks to the job of President and CMO of the American Eagle brands,according to website prnewswire, McGalla left in 2009 and took her experience to the private sector as a consultant in retail and financial investments. Acknowledging her business skills, HFF, a publicly traded commercial real estate company, appointed her to a seat on their Board of Directors. In January of 2011, the Wet Seal clothing retailer went outside their company ranks and solicited Susan to join their firm as their new CEO to replace the outgoing CEO, Ed Thomas.
After 18-months at the helm of Wet Seal, McGalla felt it was time to strike out on her own and left to found P3 Executive Consulting in Pittsburgh. One of her first clients was the storied Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL. Being the daughter of a respected and well-known football coach in the region and with an exemplary background in business, Susan was quickly tapped by the Steelers to join them in her current position of Director of Strategic Planning and Growth for the team.