At the Toy Industry’s 2014 Toy Fair last week, Mattel debuted Entrepreneur Barbie, the latest in its I Can Be line of career-oriented dolls. This was interesting timing, considering Barbie recently grabbed headlines by appearing in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition, which helped Mattel refresh pop-culture interest in the doll according to Bloomberg. Her feature in Sports Illustrated was the first time Barbie’s job description read “self-employed.”
I vividly remember Barbie’s advertising jingle from the 1980s: “We girls can do anything… Right, Barbie?” Kudos to Mattel for coming up with a brand mantra that has persisted for over 30 years. But if you look at Barbie’s history, she’s been a toy industry pioneer from the very start. Barbie was one of the first widely popular dolls for girls that was molded as an adult woman and not a baby. Barbie has had some sort of career (over 150 in fact, according to TIME) since 1960. So seeing Barbie as an entrepreneur is not surprising. What is surprising is that it has taken this long.
Barbie’s latest career path, or how it’s portrayed at least, has some critics. They believe that the average woman entrepreneur is not wearing designer fashions, strutting around in shiny black pumps with the latest tablet PC in hand. Rather she’s a frugal creature who cares more about her confidence and ability to attain goals than her fashion sense. You’d think Entrepreneur Barbie would be no different, especially if she had a startup under her reins. There is no one particular “type” of entrepreneur, Entrepreneur Barbie might cause young and impressionable little girls to question the validity of any woman entrepreneur whose persona doesn’t match their doll’s.
When women entrepreneurs publicly focus on their affinity for design and fashion, it’s seen as frivolous. Just look at Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer and the largely negative reactions to her fashionable Vogue photo shoot. Mayer seemed embarrassed about the photo shoot in a recent interview, backtracking on the notion that you can be CEO of a technology company and be proud to look sexy while doing so.
In spite of these minor controversies, the benefits of Entrepreneur Barbie hitting the toy market outweigh the downsides. Entrepreneur Barbie demonstrates to young girls that entrepreneurship is a career option for women that is not far-fetched or crazy to pursue. Entrepreneurship is regarded as one of the best ways for people between the ages of 25 and 34 to create personal wealth, according to CNN Money, so there is no harm in encouraging girls to think about entrepreneurship as a viable career path for themselves. To help promote entrepreneurship among women and girls, Mattel is planning to create a series of videos that highlight successful women entrepreneurs, which will be available on www.Barbie.com and on Barbie’s YouTube channel.
What do you think about Barbie’s latest career endeavor?
Image by Inc.Magazine