Entrepreneur Barbie: Promoting women or holding them back?

For the first time since our incorporation, T4A.org will have five consecutive TechTables featuring women. As a company with the goal of bringing together technology and politics, two notoriously male dominated fields, this is particularly inspiring. The number of women in each of these sectors, while growing, is still very low. VentureBeat reported in 2013 that “women represent less that ten percent of venture capitalists” and hold only 14% of executive officer positions (not-tech specific).1 Out of the 535 members of the 113th Congress, only 98 are women.2 So how do we get more women in these fields?

One suggestion? Start ‘em out young! Mattel was the talk of the town at Toy Fair this week when they unveiled the latest doll in their I Can Be line, Entrepreneur Barbie. While still maintaining many of her gendered traits (pink dress, high heels, perfect hair), Barbie shows off her tech savvy with her smartphone, tablet, and laptop case. In recent years, Mattel has become known as a “ceiling breaker,” putting their dolls into fields that women either hadn’t entered yet or had very low representation.3 It can be inferred then that Mattel’s goal with this line is to encourage young girls to seek out industries that are not traditionally female.

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Here’s my question though – is this really progress? All things considered, is Entrepreneur Barbie a good thing? First of all, I think it’s very important for young girls to have role models in high powered roles, fiction or non-fiction, real or plastic. Anything that represents successful women is a plus. But is there a right way to do this? My biggest concern with Entrepreneur Barbie is how she is portrayed. She’s still somewhat sexualized, wearing tight dresses and stilettos and is stick thin to the point of being disproportionate. Is this how all female entrepreneurs look?

TechCrunch writer Alexia Tsotsis explored this topic as well and while she ultimately concluded that Entrepreneur Barbie is a good thing, she pointed out that her staff made jokes about the Barbie, calling her ‘E-Commerce fashion aggregator app’ Barbie and ‘Isn’t sure if this is a VC pitch meeting or a date’ Barbie.Mattel is portraying the working woman in a way that makes it tough to take her seriously. This is not to say that women should dress or act a certain way, but should we have a more realistic representation of women in power?

All in all, I love that we are giving young girls dreams of becoming entrepreneurs or politicians, but are we doing it in the right way?

1Farr, C. (2013). Let’s talk about ‘women in tech’: Silicon Valley still has a gender problem. VentureBeat. Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2013/03/08/the-woman-in-tech-dialogue-is-taking-center-stage-and-this-is-a-good-thing/

2Roberts, A. (2013). By the numbers: 113th Congress. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/03/politics/btn-113th-congress/

3Lacina, L. (2014). Introducing Entrepreneur Barbie. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231590

4Tsotsis, A. (2014). Entrepreneurship Barbie Isn’t A Bad Idea Actually. TechCrunch. Retrieved from http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/19/keep-calm-and-love-math/

Image via TechCrunch