Mattel Shouldn’t Let The Opportunities From Entrepreneur Barbie Slip Away

With strong partnerships, Entrepreneur Barbie could be relevant in a way the doll has never been before.

business barbieBarbie has had many jobs (150, according to CNN), outfits, homes and houses. She’s lately added a business suit and tech gadgets to her wardrobe with Entrepreneur Barbie, a doll that comes with a smartphone and tablet.

She’s still the same blond bombshell. Still chic in pink. But this time around, she comes with a social network that includes 10 (human) entrepreneurs, who are the doll’s “Chief Inspirational Officers.” Founders from Rent the Runway, One Kings Lane, and Girls Who Code are part of the network and they conducted a Twitter chat last week to launch the doll.

The Atlantic finds it strange that the brand is using the #Unapologetic hashtag for this doll seeing as how it was used for the previous one, a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue collaboration. We’ll second that, but there’s actually a little more at stake here than just a wrongheaded hashtag.

This partnership is a real opportunity to jettison Barbie into 2014, with a lesson for young girls that is modern and tied very much to reality. Barbie has the chance to be something more relevant and significant than she has been in the past.

Mattel says it hopes that Entrepreneur Barbie will ” inspire a generation of female entrepreneurs.” Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, says this is just what’s needed to do exactly that.

“You can’t be what you cannot see,” she said to TechCrunch.

Mattel must make sure that, aside from the business suit and briefcase, young girls do see the inspiring side of Entrepreneur Barbie. Too often, toy makers rely on signifiers — pink for girls and blue for boys, for example — to get a message across about their product. We’re meant to deduce from her attire that Entrepreneur Barbie means business. The product description reads:

Entering the entrepreneurial world, this independent professional is ready for the next big pitch. Barbie Entrepreneur doll wears a sophisticated dress in signature pink that features modern color blocking and a sleek silhouette. Her “smartphone,” tablet and briefcase are always by her side. And luxe details, like a glam necklace, cool clutch and elegant hairstyle, are awesome extras for a smart, stylish career woman.

As usual, Mattel has made sure that their doll has the accoutrements of what you think a woman following this career path would look like. But there’s much more than meets the eye when a woman (or anyone) decides to hang their shingle and build a business for themselves. Oftentimes, your accessories don’t matter.

For a crop of young girls coming up who still play with Barbie dolls, this partnership can provide insight and maybe even a little mentoring at a time when girls need this sort of information to feel good about  — and act on — their wide and varied interests. Even those that are usually male-dominated.

Already, the doll has faced backlash from those who see it as a sexist interpretation of what a businesswoman is. Being stylish is part of the Barbie brand. Being involved with fans in this way is not. This could be a chance for Barbie to broaden her appeal and go beyond her unrealistic dimensions and well-coordinated outfit.