Susan P. McGalla
Susan P. McGalla, 41, chief merchandising officer and president of the American Eagle Outfitters brand, started at the teen retailer in 1994, when the executive offices very much reflected the chain's roots as an activewear store focused on male customers.
It didn't seem to matter much. Ms. McGalla, who had come from the former Joseph Horne Co. department stores, said she always felt American Eagle management was judging her on the value of her ideas, although she made sure on business trips not to be the last one to arrive at the first meeting of the morning.
Last May, she received her current title, which puts her in charge of design, merchandising and marketing of the brand seen on American teens everywhere. In October, she wore jeans to help lead a celebration on the South Side to announce the retailer's plan to move its headquarters there. Gov. Ed Rendell remarked he'd rarely seen such a young president.
Her take on being a woman in the business also may not quite fit expectations.
At one point, a group approached her to apply for one of those women executive awards. Filling out her application, she talked about growing up in East Liverpool, Ohio, with two brothers and a football coach for a father. "It was always taught that I was a person. I was not a man or a woman."
Her family helped teach her to have confidence in presenting herself and her ideas. "That has served me well. I have never played the woman card," Ms. McGalla said. Besides, being able to talk sports as passionately as shopping has given her entree in conversations with anyone.
Something about her answer on the application made the contest folks uncomfortable. They asked her if she could write something else.