Mattel debuts a new career for the blond bombshell with the help of some powerful businesswomen, like Girls Who Code's Reshma Saujani
Sheryl Sandberg may have a new spokeswoman: She loves pink, has endless accessories and would weigh 110 pounds at 5’9″ tall if she were a real person. She’s Entrepreneur Barbie and she’s ready to lean in.
Mattel released its 2014 Career of the Year Doll on Amazon this week. “Entering the entrepreneurial world, this independent professional is ready for the next big pitch,” Mattel’s description for the toy reads. “Barbie Entrepreneur doll wears a sophisticated dress in signature pink that features modern color blocking and a sleek silhouette. Her ‘smartphone,’ tablet and briefcase are always by her side. And luxe details, like a glam necklace, cool clutch and elegant hairstyle, are awesome extras for a smart, stylish career woman.”
The blonde beauty appears ready to take on Silicon Valley: She’s getting her very own LinkedIn page and a billboard in Times Square with the slogan, “If you can dream it you can be it,” as well as the hashtag #unapologetic. The whole campaign is part of a larger push to rebrand Barbie as an empowered woman. As Mattel spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni told TIME in February: “In essence, Barbie is always asked to apologize for what she looks like. And the message there is to be unapologetic.”
But in a field that’s traditionally dominated by men, where did Barbie find role models for her new mission? For that, she credits her ten “Chief Inspirational Officers,” which includes Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower young women by teaching them advanced computer skills sought after in today’s job market.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Saujani told Wired magazine. “Unfortunately we live in a culture where girls are bombarded with images of male coders and engineers that just don’t look like them…And then we wonder why girls don’t pursue careers in tech! We have to change popular culture and start showing more women, more cool, dynamic, creative women, in these roles.” And, apparently for Saujani, Entrepreneur Barbie wearing “a sophisticated dress in signature pink” can be that “dynamic” role model for young girls.
Mattel kicked off their sales of the doll Wednesday by using the hashtag #barbiechat on Twitter to start a conversation around career advice. “Alongside Barbie, female entrepreneurs are changing the world, surpassing their goals and showing girls they can be both capable and captivating,” Mattel announced on Wednesday.
While the toy maker boldly asserts that female entrepreneurs’ influence occurs “alongside Barbie,” some might argue the best career advice to young girls is to avoid playing with Barbies. According to a March study by Oregon State University, girls between the ages of 4 and 7 who played with Barbies were more likely to perceive themselves as having limited career options—regardless of whether the Barbie had a career herself.
“Playing with Barbie has an effect on girls’ ideas about their place in the world,” said OSU researcher Aurora M. Sherman. “It creates a limit on the sense of what’s possible for their future.”
These findings as well as the sexualized features of other female dolls has caused concern and even recently spurred the creation of other toys, such as I Am Elemental‘s line of female action figures. Although Barbie’s sales sank 14% last year, the 54-year-old iconic toy will not fade easily.
Perhaps Mattel’s profits can be bolstered by the business savvy of a certain “smart, stylish career woman” — accessories and all.