A Barbie girl in the Barbie world… with a company to run

A Barbie girl in the Barbie world… with a company to run
‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ Entrepreneur Barbie is hiring (Picture: Mattel)

‘Come on Barbie, let’s go party!’ – ‘Not now Ken – I have a business to run.

It’s hard work being the world’s most recognisable toy doll. In the past 55 years, Barbie has had more than 150 jobs and made a success of them all, apart from her regular tilts at getting into the White House (Barbie has run for US president six times without election).

But this week she finally became her own boss with the launch of Entrepreneur Barbie, the latest incarnation of a doll who celebrated her 55th birthday earlier this year.

It’s slightly unfair to her, but Barbie is often associated with lounging beside the pool and riding her pet horse. But when she hasn’t been hanging around her dream house, she’s been job-hunting.

And what a fantastically varied CV she can submit to prospective employers. Barbie has done it all.

In the early 1960s, she was a fashion designer, ballerina, flight attendant, nurse and tennis player within the space of two years. Stints as an astronaut, a surgeon and an Olympic skier followed, before she caught the 1980s workout bug by becoming an aerobics instructor. In more recent years, Barbie has been a rapper, a police officer, a news anchor and a racing driver.

Despite her versatility, Entrepreneur Barbie marks a big step for the toy made by Mattel. While there was a Business Executive Barbie in 1992 and a Working Woman Barbie in 1999, this is the first time she has set up her own company. But in what area is she an entrepreneur?

‘Whatever a little girl wants her to be,’ said Sarah Allen, PR manager at Mattel UK. ‘Anything’s possible with Barbie.

‘The whole thing about Barbie is that she allows girls to live out their dreams. And when you’re five, every day you may decide that you want to have a different career and you may decide that you want to do something different.’

The new Barbie is equipped with a smartphone and a tablet (Picture: Mattel)

Like any Barbie worth her salt, Entrepreneur Barbie comes with a host of accessories.

These include a smartphone, a tablet and a handbag, leading some to criticise Mattel for implying that a few gadgets are the only things women need to get ahead in business. Although, in the toy company’s defence, it’s difficult to picture six-year-old girls clamouring to play with Barbie’s ten-year business plan.

Entrepreneur Barbie has also come in for criticism because of her attire, and while she does admittedly look slightly more budget airline hostess than CEO, pink has never been out of fashion as far as she is concerned.

‘When we look at what career Barbie should take, we look at what is happening in society,’ said Allen. ‘And that’s why we selected entrepreneur. She’s always been an aspirational role model, showing girls that anything is possible.’

The new doll coincides with a campaign in the US which involves the female founders of a number of companies, including Girls Who Code and Rent the Runway.

While each Barbie does attempt to fit into the world around her – the entrepreneur version will even have her own LinkedIn page – can we really expect her to reflect modern society?

Research published earlier this year by Oregon State University and the University of California said that playing with Barbie dolls could restrict girls’ career choices. In the study, four to seven-year-old girls were asked to play with different toys before being asked what occupations they could do when they grow up. Those who played with the Barbie dolls said they could do fewer jobs than boys. Barbie is also in the middle of a financial slump – Mattel reported a 14 per cent quarterly drop in worldwide sales for the doll in April.

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Belinda Parmar is the chief executive of Lady Geek, a campaigning agency that encourages more women to enter the tech industry. She is not impressed by the latest Barbie.

‘I’ve never met an entrepreneur who matches her iPad to her outfit,’ she said. ‘This Barbie must have graduated from the Paris Hilton Business School. I’d like to see her wearing a hoodie, frantically coding her next app while she drinks too many Americanos in a Hoxton cafe.

‘Not even Angelina Jolie or Sheryl Sandberg could look as groomed as Barbie. Whilst Entrepreneur Barbie is less pernicious that the Barbie [1992’s Teen Talk Barbie] which says ‘maths class is tough’, brands like Mattel have missed an opportunity to create products that unashamedly celebrate real ambition amongst girls.’

Parmar said dolls have had their day. ‘We are in the post-doll era. For my daughter, dolls are toys you find in museums. I don’t think they are relevant to today’s kids. Games like Minecraft teach analytical and logical thinking. A doll is a redundant prop that does little to stimulate the imagination. Barbie reacts to culture rather than leading it. She is a follower, not a pioneer. Mattel are merely cashing in on a trend.’

But Danielle Wightman-Stone, founder of the Fashionista Barbie blog, believes the entrepreneur doll offers a fresh vision.

‘It certainly isn’t a traditional, stereotypical career that we have seen from Barbie before,’ she said. ‘Anything that can promote to girls that they can be anything they want to be can’t be a bad thing.’

Entrepreneur Barbie’s accessories are a nice touch, according to Wightman-Stone, although she isn’t overwhelmed by the ‘old-fashioned’ briefcase. And as for the clothing…

‘She wouldn’t be Barbie without her signature pink, and her dress is very Roland Mouret or even Victoria Beckham: modern with a feminine edge. Her figure might be model-like, but I think the outfit is what makes her a businesswoman.’

Wightman-Stone said the doll is an ‘easy target’ for criticism. ‘Barbie is always going to be criticised for something, whether it is her figure, her flawless face or that her favourite colour is pink,’ she said.

‘A lot has been said about Barbie’s dimensions affecting girls’ body image, but can a doll really be the only thing that makes girls think about their weight? I was more influenced by the real women in my life than my favourite doll.’

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Source: metro.co.uk

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