After 55 years, and roles such as a fashion model, astronaut and 'American Idol' winner, we now have Entrepreneur Barbie - released as Mattel's 2014 'Career of the Year' doll.
But is it the same old Barbie?
She has been given a mobile phone, tablet and briefcase - but still has blonde hair, and poses in pink with the same slim line figure in high heels. Entrepreneur Barbie has her own LinkedIn profile as well as the hashtag #unapologetic, and has been inspired by 10 real-life businesswomen (Mattel's 'Chief Inspirational Officers'). She has been designed to encourage girls to follow their dreams with the slogan “If you can dream it you can be it”.
Toy manufacturers should play a key role in communicating role models that are not gender stereotypes to children. It is commonly assumed that female role models improve women’s beliefs that they can be successful in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, so having toys in your range that promote STEM learning should be seen as a good thing.
Lego recently announced the proposed release of a new Female Minifigure Set (entitled 'Research Institute') that will include chemists, astronomers, and palaeontologists - coming to a shop near you in August (with the possibility of more to follow in the form of Falconers, Geologists and Robotics Engineers).
As a mother of a five year old daughter who often reminds me that she would like a Barbie doll, it has been very difficult to see the whole Barbie brand as a good role model for her. I might be tempted by Entrepreneur Barbie, but I'm still considering the Lottie Doll alternative for her birthday. She is very much into Lego at the moment too - the pink variety ('Friends') and the more traditional 'boy' variety. But she was very excited when I told her about the new female 'Research Institute' sets that might be on offer later this year.
Well done Mattel and Lego for at least trying to change the communication of gender stereotypes to children, but I'm not sure that you have gone far enough.
"Barbie Entrepreneur doll wears a sophisticated dress in signature pink that features modern colour blocking and a sleek silhouette," Mattel describes the doll. "Luxe details like a glam necklace, cool clutch, and elegant hairstyle are smart, professional touches." Advertisement But beyond the marketing hype, Sydney University body image expert Professor Jenny O'Dea said 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."