Fiona McCade: Does Barbie mean business?

Even with smartphone and case, Barbie is an unlikely businesswoman
Even with smartphone and case, Barbie is an unlikely businesswoman
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Mattel’s vision of an Entrepreneur version of the famous doll is lacking more than a couple of accessories, argues Fiona McCade

You can understand why she would do it. After so many years of working for the government (ambassador; astronaut; teacher; army officer; firefighter), in the arts (ballerina; singer; movie star), in medicine (nurse; doctor; vet) and in more than 139 other jobs over the decades, I suppose it was about time that Barbie finally started up her own business.

Considering that this doll has been, amongst so many other things, President of the United States, it’s laudable that she would want to reinvent herself as a self-employed hard-grafter, especially when the public-speaking circuit has proved so very lucrative for other former politicians.

However, it’s obvious that the new Entrepreneur Barbie has greater ambitions than merely to take up a non-executive directorship, or sit back and watch her autobiography hit the bargain bins.

Her manufacturer, Mattel, has launched her with the announcement that she is: “Ready to make a bold business move and strike out on her own to achieve her career dreams!”

Having already been both a Business Executive and a Working Woman, this is the first time that Barbie has taken the helm of her own enterprise and, it must be said, Entrepreneur Barbie is looking as good as ever, despite being at the age (55) when most women are being refused business loans because the banks fear they’re too old to pay them back.

Naturally, she’s wearing pink, but then she did that even when she went to the Moon and besides, fellow entrepreneur Elsa Schiaparelli would approve. Her Roland Mouret-inspired dress is chic but restrained and the advert for this latest incarnation declares: “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.”

But, pardon me for asking, what exactly does she do? What is the nature of her entrepreneurial bent? The smartphone, tablet and briefcase are all most impressive, but what are they going to be used for? In what particular field are her “awesome” necklace, handbag and hairdo going to propel her to the very forefront of the business world?

A spokeswoman for Mattel UK says Barbie can be: “Whatever a little girl wants her to be… Anything’s possible with Barbie.” And that’s fair enough, but wasn’t anything possible with Barbie before this particular model came on the market?

I reckon little girls might have more imagination – although a lot less marketing savvy – than Barbie’s manufacturers.

Mattel may have created a special LinkedIn profile for her, but frankly, this is basically Smartly Dressed Barbie with a briefcase, and a briefcase does not an entrepreneur make. At least, I don’t think it does – hang on, let me mentally hang a briefcase on White Dee. OK, I can definitely attest to the fact that a briefcase alone is not enough to convince anyone that a woman means business. Not even when it contains a smartphone and a tablet. There has to be more going on.

Entrepreneur Barbie doesn’t have nearly enough accessories to convince me she’s serious about making her project work. And if little girls are going to get a credible picture of the sort of woman who can build a business from scratch, they need to see many more aspects of Barbie’s working life.

If I were designing a self-employed doll, the first thing I’d do is make sure she came with a nice, snuggly set of pyjamas, for all those days she spends shuffling around her abode, desperately trying to come up with creative ideas. A very large coffee cup and kettle would be a nice touch, as would a fridge, with a big “Back Off and Get Back to Work” sticker on it. I’d also sell the doll complete with a desk, computer and – most importantly – a swivel chair in which she could slump, twirl and, during moments of angst, bang her head against the aforesaid desk.

Talking of angst, there’s definitely a niche for a Bank Manager Ken figure, and of course, he’ll need a particularly large and imposing desk upon which to rest his feet while Entrepreneur Barbie begs him not to foreclose.

The current description of Entrepreneur Barbie says, “Doll cannot stand alone”, which is what I feared. She’s worryingly lightweight, so we need to find more ways to make her a woman of substance.

I’m not saying Barbie won’t need a nice outfit in which to go out and impress investors, but at the moment, her pink and black slimline frock makes her look rather too much like Sexy Newsreader Barbie, who just happens to have brought along a briefcase in order to be taken seriously. I would also suggest ditching the diamanté necklace (it wouldn’t be real diamonds, as she would have had to pawn those to fund the company).

She definitely needs a large office, filled with employees like Tea Making Barbie and Personal Assistant Barbie. This will help the little girls who are playing with her to understand that, however capable and independent Entrepreneur Barbie may seem, nobody can build an empire alone. Other interesting add-ons might include an office for Ex-Husband Ken, who still has a financial stake in the company, and an array of pot-plants with microphones in them, so Entrepreneur Barbie can keep tabs on any staff she doesn’t entirely trust.

Although I’m not at all convinced by this Captain of Industry Barbie as a genuine mover and shaker, I suppose it will be worthwhile if just one small child asks: “What’s an entrepreneur?” and thinks: “Well, if this bimbo can do it, why shouldn’t I?”

Mattel, feel free to ignore all my suggestions for improvements to Entrepreneur Barbie, but I honestly think the doll would be infinitely more effective if you do just one thing. Please, add a voice-box function, so that whenever Entrepreneur Barbie lifts her arm and points, she automatically says: “You’re fired!”