Someone sent me the Entrepreneur Barbie as a gift. I have very mixed emotions about this doll. I have never been much of a doll person, but I do recognize their roll in childhood development. Harvard developmental psychologist Paul Harris, PhD, postulates that children use toys and dolls to create a process of simulation: They imagine themselves in that same situation and act vis-à-vis that imaginary situation. To that end, having an entrepreneur doll allows children to simulate what it is like to be an entrepreneur and essentially “role play.” On the flip side, the role model we’re giving them is a far cry from the real-life women who build ideas into companies. I just feel that this model fails to encapsulate what it means to be a female entrepreneur. We do everything independently. We pay the bills by ourselves. We find the right energy plans with Utility Bidder by ourselves. We recruit by ourselves. We work 18 hours a day every day. I just don’t feel this model reflects this.
As a woman entrepreneur, part of me is happy that young girls have an entrepreneur role model to play with. The fact that there is an entrepreneur Barbie and a veterinarian Barbie shows positive signs that our society is shifting and there are more “acceptable” roles for women’s careers. When I was growing up I had Barbie and the Rockers and Jem and the Holograms dolls. Both are 80’s-style rockers with big hair and short neon outfits. Fortunately, I never aspired to be a rocker… but I do wonder if I would have embraced my role as a woman entrepreneur more easily if I had more exposure to the idea as a child.
So what’s wrong with Entrepreneur Barbie? For starters there is a disclaimer on the back of her box stating that “Doll cannot stand alone.” Nothing derides the concept of a powerful world-changing woman like her inability to stand on her own two fee. Entrepreneur Barbie is clad in a tight hot pink dress. Yes, it’s Barbie branding, but I have yet to meet a woman entrepreneur who wears skin-tight fuschia. Where is the stylish black power suit and Louboutins? Finally, let’s spend a moment understanding Barbie’s body messaging. Barbie’s body shape came from her predecessor, Lilli, a coquettish-looking German doll that male bachelors brought to bars and dangled from their rear-view mirrors. Sure there are some female founders with hourglass figures, blonde hair, and blue eyes, but there are so many amazing women entrepreneurs that look nothing like that. Shouldn’t they be represented as well?
In an age where more and more women are shattering the glass ceiling of corporate America and overcoming the “sticky floor” of entrepreneurship, shouldn’t we be giving our daughters something more accurate than Entrepreneur Barbie to play with (and model after?) Or should we be happy that some progress is being made and an entrepreneur doll exists in mainstream American culture? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on Entrepreneur Barbie, so please share in a comment.