Since her founding over 55 years ago, Barbie has held nearly every career under the sun: lifeguard, pilot, police officer, astronaut… and yes, even a McDonald’s cashier. So it came as no surprise that Mattel unveiled its latest Barbie last week at the American International Toy Fair in New York: Entrepreneur Barbie. The entrepreneur doll comes in four versions, outfitted in a professional-looking and belted black and pink dress à la Victoria Beckham’s fashion line. Barbie Entrepreneur will hit stores in June.
There is no doubt Mattel is going for inspiration. Mattel has said that a partnership with Girl Scouts of America is in the works, as well as other female-empowering organizations, to create videos highlighting successful female entrepreneurs that will be available on Barbie.com and the Barbie YouTube Channel.
With her briefcase, smartphone and matching tablet technology accessories, she can be anything she wants to be. Sharp and put together, she is ready to take on the world. Perhaps she is about to step into a business meeting to pitch her business plan, or to blog about the latest conference she attended. Maybe she’s the successful founder of a startup. This certainly is a smart move by Mattel in an era when young women are using personal technology resources to brand themselves and create careers.
Looking into Barbie’s career history, however, I find it interesting that this doll is the first to be labeled an entrepreneur. Yes, while some of her previous careers might have meant she wasn’t her own boss, this is certainly not the first Barbie Entrepreneur. For most of her careers, Barbie certainly had to have some entrepreneurial motivation to get those jobs. I mean, seriously, an astronaut? Architect? Computer engineer? And even a presidential candidate? (I would even argue that Babysitter Barbie be considered an entrepreneur!) Her impressive career choices would, in real life, require a strong work ethic, extensive education and entrepreneurial drive.
So while Barbie took a leap forward for female empowerment with the Entrepreneur addition, it also took two steps back when Barbie partnered with Sports Illustrated for its most recent 50th Anniversary Swimsuit Issue. Barbie has sent mixed messages about physical expectations to girls (which have spawned numerous body image campaigns about the unattainable physique of the doll’s actual measurements.)
If Mattel wants to reinforce that Barbie is more than a buxom blonde, they need to stick with their message of accomplishments and hard work. Barbie Entrepreneur is a step in the right direction, but Mattel should keep encouraging young girls that more than their physical appearance will lead to success in this world. Rather, self-motivation, hard work, goal-setting, and believing in themselves are what girls can learn from Entrepreneur Barbie—that they are worthy and 100% capable of success and accomplishment.