ONE OF JILL BARAD'S FIRST big jobs at Mattel was creating She-Ra, Princess of Power. On Aug. 22, the woman who gave us the female action hero was expected to be named CEO of Mattel, effective Jan. 1, replacing John Amerman, who is set to retire.

Barad, 45, credits her 15-year climb through the ranks at Mattel--which included more than tripling Barbie sales, to $1.5 billion, in eight years--to unrelenting hard work. "I never looked up. I just kept going," she says. She will be one of a handful of women running major American corporations.

Her first move: expanding abroad. She expects overseas business to eventually account for more than 50% of sales, up from 40%. "The business is there for the taking," she says. That's good, because Mattel's growth in the U.S. is slipping. And the company suffered a major public-relations blow this year when a planned merger with archrival Hasbro fell through.

Barad must hustle to keep growth on track--but she's used to adversity. She-Ra ultimately flopped.

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