Mattel, the makers of one of the world’s most ubiquitous dolls, Barbie, is looking to change perceptions about women and high-achieving jobs. Last week’s launch of ‘Entrepreneur Barbie’ is a social media campaign backed by several real-life female business moguls – perfect for the UAE which has a wealth of attractive entrepreneurial women, as proven by our Emirates Woman Woman of the Year Awards.
Barbie is not afraid to work – the fashion doll has had over 150 jobs since her creation in 1959. While many of them have been stereotypical ‘women’s work’ such as model, ballerina, flight attendant and nurse, she was an astronaut in the 1960s, a CEO in the 1980s, and a presidential candidate in the 1990s – all long before real-life woman assumed these roles.
Mattel has now sought to help Barbie break “through plastic ceilings and inspire girls to follow their dreams.” Enlisting the help of 10 high-profile female entrepreneurs or “Chief Inspirational Officers (CIOs)” an online campaign has been launched with career tips, Twitter discussions, career-themed games and blog posts. Included on the impressive list are Gina Rudan, President of Genuine Insights, Inc., a global marketing and talent development consulting practice based in Silicon Valley; Reshma Saujani founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, advocate for closing the gender gap and empowering girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering; Susan Feldman & Alison Pincus founders of home décor website One Kings Lane and Jennifer Hyman & Jenny Fleiss, Harvard graduated and founders of Rent The Runway.
The campaign, which has the aspirational tagline “If you dream it, you can be it,” kicked off with a “Pink Power Lunch” on Twitter last Wednesday with the public able to engage directly with the CIOs and ‘Barbie’. The hashtags #BarbieChat and #Unapologetic were used and garnered a mixed response – while many applauded the cause, many remained skeptical about her controversial unrealistic proportions.
To add further questions to the debate, a recent study by the Oregon State University concluded that playing with Barbie could limit young girls’ career choices. They found that girls who had played with a Barbie, regardless of what she was wearing, thought they could do less jobs than boys, whereas those who played with Mrs Potato Head felt as though they had the same options as boys. Aurora Sherman, the associate professor who conducted the study explains, “Childhood development is complex, and playing with one toy isn’t likely to alter a child’s career aspirations. But toys such as dolls or action figures can influence a child’s ideas about their future. For parents, the most important thing is to look at the child’s toy box and make sure there is a wide variety of toys to play with.”
Remsha Saujani disagrees that Barbie is a bad career role model. As she told Wired, “We have to meet girls where they are. If we use the toys girls are playing with to encourage them in STEM fields, it doesn’t matter if they are pink, blue, or orange. We need a movement. Girls should be unapologetic about wanting to learn (and being good at it!) As a society we desperately need to change the messages we send to girls about technology.”
Images: Mattel, Twitter