Briefcase in Hand, Entrepreneur Barbie Wants to Help Girls Break the ‘Plastic Ceiling’

The new figurine still wears her signature pink, but this time she has a smartphone and is ready to ‘lean in.’

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Jun 19, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Fresh off her stint as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, America’s most iconic doll is leaning in to corporate life—and she’s wearing plenty of pink as she does it. Yes, folks, Entrepreneur Barbie is now for sale, and the figurine’s maker, Mattel, hopes she’ll be an inspiration to all the girls out there dreaming of cracking the plastic ceiling.

The release of the doll comes just two weeks after Lego announced that it has approved the creation of a three-figure set of women scientists designed by a female geochemist. In recent years Lego and Mattel have been sharply criticized for promoting figurines that foster gender stereotypes.

Although Barbie has had more than 150 careers—from President Barbie to News Anchor Barbie—according to Mattel, this is the first time it has had the doll focus exclusively on encouraging girls’ entrepreneurial goals. While she doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, the doll does come tricked out with traditional corporate gear.

According to the description of the figure on Amazon, where it’s exclusively on sale till August, “her smartphone, tablet, and briefcase are the tools of her trade and always by her side.” Entrepreneur Barbie also wears a “sophisticated” pink dress, and “luxe details, like a glam necklace, cool clutch, and elegant hairstyle, are smart, professional touches.”

Of course, any real female entrepreneur can tell you that having shiny baubles, a fashionable handbag, and an 18-inch waist aren’t the most essential elements of starting a business. Innovative ideas are needed too. While the youngsters who will play with Entrepreneur Barbie will surely be able to imagine plenty of businesses that the doll can start, Mattel’s stepping up and providing a little encouragement.

For the rest of the year the company will turn the spotlight on 10 real-life female “chief inspiration officers.” This group of accomplished women, including gourmet candy boutique Sugarfina founder Rosie O’Neill and Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani, will provide career tips and advice on social media and on the Barbie blog.

"When you ask a girl what a computer scientist is, she usually pictures a geeky guy typing away," Saujani told Wired. "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.”

With the launch of the doll Wednesday, Barbie also took to Twitter and began a dialogue about career aspirations. The company probably wasn’t hoping to reach girls through the conversation. Instead, it was engaging the people who played with the doll years ago and now control household purchases: moms.

In the last question of the chat, participants were asked, “When you were young, what was your dream career?” The replies show that girls who grew up playing with the picture-perfect doll still knew how to dream.

One mom who is now a Zumba instructor tweeted, "Interior Designer....I ‘re-did’ my doll house monthly.” Kim Stoegbauer, a party stylist and paper product designer who founded TomKat Studio and is a chief inspiration officer, tweeted, “@Barbie I wanted to own a stationery shop! #DreamsComeTrue #BarbieChat #Unapologetic”

As much as Barbie gets hammered for the pink clothing and for promoting an unattainable standard of beauty, Mattel does seem genuinely committed to putting more diverse career options in front of America’s girls. Now if only we could see similar changes in the unrealistic body image it promotes.