So Mattel has this ongoing career-of-the-year series for everyone’s favorite shaped-like-no-human-woman-ever doll Barbie. Called “Barbie I Can Be,” every year Barbie gets a new pair of work heels to slip into. Past careers include everyday occupations (doctor, nurse, teacher), and a few decidedly LESS everyday careers (swim champion, ocean treasure explorer, cookie chef, arctic animal rescuer).
This year’s “Barbie I Can Be” is “Entrepreneur Barbie,” which sounds super on the surface. Yes, we should absolutely be telling little girls that being an “entrepreneur” is a slamming dream career. Let’s add it to the list of someday-jobs elementary school-aged ladies should be actively considering (along with “ocean treasure explorer” and “arctic animal rescuer” natch and natch).
It’s also super rad that a bunch of real-life female entrepreneurs (including Susan Feldman and Alison Pincus who founded One Kings Lane and Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss who launched Rent the Runway) are partnering with Mattel to serve as Barbies “Chief Inspiration Officers” and are going to be contributing to the site, talking to the Barbie audience about their experiences as women starting and running their own companies. Mattel also provides a printable “What’s an Entrepreneur?” handout on the website that provides a flowchart showing how a little girl’s current interests can lead to her someday-business, and how she can start entrepreneur-ing before she’s even got her multiplication tables memorized by self-starting a lemonade stand, pulling weeds for her neighbors, or making bracelets to sell.
So that’s all good. Hooray Mattel! Well, actually, let’s hold onto that “Hooray” for just one more quick second. Because the actual “Entrepreneur Barbie,” like the doll you buy at the store, seems incredibly generic and vague. She’s wearing a workplace-cute dress and a blinged-out statement necklace. Her other accessories include a purse, a wallet, a smart phone and a tablet (pulled up to a page featuring bar and pie charts). So what does Entrepreneur Barbie actually do? What’s her company, what’s her backstory, how did she break out of the clutter and become the doll equivalent of the women behind One Kings Lane and Rent the Runway?
Entrepreneur is a fancy enough word (and Lord knows I LOVE the idea of little girls running around the playground pretending to be “entrepreneurs”), but it’s also a really vague word. It just means “someone who started their own business” but an inspiring story is nothing without the details, and without knowing who this “Entrepreneur Barbie” is and what she’s done, it’s hard to get invested in her story, which means it’s going to be hard for girls to want to be her when they grow up. When you really think about it, “Entrepreneur Barbie” seems about as vague as “Boss Barbie” or “Businesswoman Barbie.”
So props to Mattel for introducing a cool career avenue to little women-in-training everywhere and putting together some curriculum to boot, but I just can’t help thinking it would be easier for little girls to dream about being entrepreneurs if they had some more details to hang onto, that is to say, if they knew WHAT exactly they were dreaming about.