Barbie is back, and this time she’s the trailblazing boss. But is she setting a good example by breaking through the plastic ceiling, or is it just same old Barbie in a fancy business suit?
Mattel has released Entrepreneur Barbie as its Career of the Year doll – and this “independent professional is ready for the next big pitch”. With briefcase, smartphone and tablet in hand, according to the sales pitch the doll is “ready to make a bold business move and strike out on her own”.
Mattel says it has partnered with eight real women entrepreneurs to mentor Barbie as she is “blazing trails alongside other female leaders who are proud to be boss”. It is marketing the new Barbie around the hashtag #unapologetic and she will have her own LinkedIn profile. Children will be even able to get tips, career-themed games and activities at the Barbie website. “Alongside Barbie, female entrepreneurs are changing the world, surpassing their goals and showing girls they can be both capable and captivating,” Mattel says.
But for all the talk of an inspiring career woman, of course her styling is a strong focus of the sales pitch. She wears a “sophisticated” dress in signature pink with “modern colour blocking and a sleek silhouette”, and “luxe details” such as a necklace, clutch and “elegant hairstyle”.
And not everyone’s impressed. Sydney University body image expert Professor Jenny O’Dea tells the Sydney Morning Herald the “new” Barbie is the same stereotype we’ve seen for decades. “It’s just the same, unattainable, physical, out of proportion body ideals put in a business suit with accessories and lipstick,” Professor O’Dea said. “It really is laughable to suggest to young women that to be successful in a career these days you just need corporate clothes and high-tech IT gear.”
Emma Isaacs, of Australian women’s business network Business Chicks, tells SMH a realistic business Barbie would be more dishevelled. “It sets unrealistic expectations for young people that not only do we have to be successful in business and make it as an entrepreneur but we also have to look like a a supermodel while doing it,” she says.
Last month, an Oregon State University study found girls who play with Barbie dolls see fewer job options for themselves than for boys – so maybe this is a real step in the right career direction for Barbie-obsessed girls.
Just last week, Babyology reported that Lego will release three female scientist minifigures later this year – a scientist, palaeontologist and astronomer. Whether or not you agree with Barbies, at least toy makers in general are thinking about the influence their toys can have.