Susan McGalla grew up in a household in which she was the only female, so she learned at a young age to speak up for herself. She also had a father who expected her to compete with her brothers and excel without regard to her gender. As she grew up, Susan applied the solid work ethic she learned from her family to her own dreams. She worked her way up the chain with American Eagle Outfitters, founded her own executive consulting firm, and today heads up the Pittsburgh Steelers’ division of Business Strategy and Creative Development. Ms. McGalla is the vice president in charge of that department, proving she has shattered the glass ceiling once again.
That’s not to say it was easy or that every female executive can rise with the same speed. Today, the glass ceiling still poses an obstacle to women in the workplace with only one-quarter of the senior management roles filled by women worldwide. While women continue to make great strides, there is still a long way to go.
One new trend that may help is in seeking out mentors and sponsors. By partnering with an executive in a position to make decisions for the company, female executives stand a much better chance of getting their ideas heard. A sponsor can also guide her in securing better positions and equal pay.
Susan McGalla knows the struggles for women in the workplace and she speaks often about it at rallies and events. Most recently, she shared her thoughts at the Carnegie Mellon University Speaker Series for CEOs and the Women and Girl’s Foundation of Pittsburgh. Susan says the problem she often sees is that women don’t want their gender acknowledged at all, which is what many of these sponsorship programs do. Instead, they want to be promoted for their work, abilities, and ambition. For many of them, drawing this sort of attention only serves to reinforce the glass ceiling.
Ms. McGalla adds that things are starting to change, giving women better opportunities. She finds the latest efforts from women very encouraging, particularly because they’re getting more positive responses from male executives. While Susan McGalla may have achieved her own success, she continues to push for a more even playing field for other female executives.