Monday, June 30, 2014

Business Barbie Revealed. Does it Really Represent Women Entrepreneurs?

Toy manufacturers Mattel this month have launched a new 'Entrepreneur Barbie' with the claim it is helping to raise aspirations of young girls with the toy.  But the release of the new 'pink and powerful' figure has refreshed the debate - what does a female entrepreneur look like? Do all women entrepreneurs have flowing hair and a penchant for pink? Are we all tech savvy and attached at the hip to the latest gadgets?

The doll retailing at $12.99 via Mattel comes in different ethnicities, hair colour and eye colour, but each choice features standard Barbie tiny waist size, pink power dress and are accessorised by a smartphone, clutchbag, tablet and necklace.

Having worked with women entrepreneurs since 1996, The Women's Organisation Ltd. have met with women from every walk of life pursuing a plethora of amazing business ideas. One thing we are very clear on, every woman is different (and actually not many of us like to wear pink). 

Women start their own business for a variety of reasons.  For some it is following a life long dream to be their own boss, others find themselves battling unemployment and decide to utilise their skills to create their own job, for some it is finding a career that can flexibly fit around the family, and others simply find self-employment the right fit for them. 

It has been hi-lighted by media that Mattel hoped that the toy would 'raise aspirations of young girls', but how much do a pink dress and gadgets show young women the hard work and commitment that women entrepreneurs put in every day to make their business dream a reality?

Sydney University body image expert Professor Jenny O'Dea told The Sydney Morning Herald the "new" barbie was the same old stereotype that we have have 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."

In fact we couldn't help agreeing with Liz Tilatti in her Forbes Article "Why Entrepreneur Barbie Missed the Mark" where she confesses her experience of women entrepreneurs. 

Liz says "We don’t walk around wearing pearls nor heels nor formal dresses all the time. If you’re an entrepreneur starting a company, you’re usually dressed in what’s most comfortable to you – jeans, a more casual shirt and flats – mainly because you’re running around all day." reported "Mattel is also giving its newest Barbie a built-in social network, in the form of a partnership with 10 (human) entrepreneurswomen who serve as the doll's "Chief Inspirational Officers," or CIOs. The group includes the founders of Rent the Runway, One Kings Lane, and Girls Who Code. Together, the real-life women suggest the assumption that Barbie's shift-dress-y synergies will allow girls to better imagine themselves as entrepreneurs. As Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, explains“You can’t be what you can’t see.” 
Real life role models are something we very much endorse, in fact on this very blog you can read some of the inspirational stories of women who have come through our programmes. We would love to share some of these women's stories and images with Mattel.  Maybe then we would see an entrepreneur we could recognise.

What do you think of Entrepreneur Barbie?  

1 comment:

  1. Follow up article by Jade Wright at the Liverpool Echo