As an office filled with mostly women, the majority of us have had a playdate with a Barbie at some point or another. Ask what the best Barbie accessories were and you’ll find us talking about her rad motorhome or enviable long-maned ponies. But while Barbie may happily run off for a weekend in a camper van and frolic across the sands on her horse Nibbles, she also comes fully equipped with a career, showing girls that it’s all about having beauty and brains.
Barbie has built a large career portfolio. It all started in 1963 when she was announced as a corporate executive – this at a time when there was a distinct lack of female figures in top-level roles. Mattel has continued Barbie’s thought-provoking professional career ever since, with their icon going on to bag a number of high profile roles such as an Astronaut (1965), Marine Corps Sergeant (1992) and WNBA player (1998), to name a few. This year, however, she’s taking a punt at becoming a robotics engineer!
A household name, Barbie has come a long way since the days of bleach blonde hair and an almost non-existent waist. Today she comes in all shapes, sizes and shades, as Mattel recognised the calls for more diversity in their product line, and saw the influence they could have on the younger generations. Their decision to make Barbie’s ‘Career of the Year’ a role in robotics is an interesting move that continues to reflect this. Mattel has always pinpointed gaps in industries and tried to lead from the front, and this shows how widely and deeply the current gender gap in the tech and engineering sectors is acknowledged.
Despite efforts to encourage women and young girls to enter the tech industry, it’s still struggling to convince them it ticks all of the dream career boxes. The industry needs to show its sunny side, its ability to be flexible, well paid and an overall great sector to work in. It’s not just about encouraging the female population however, it’s about all genders and ethnicities. We all want to do something we love for a living, and schools need to make an effort to show students what opportunities a career in technology provides and help them develop the skill sets they need. The more that iconic brands such as Mattel support the image of a career in technology and engineering as a desirable, the less we will have to talk about the gaps, and the more we will talk about all of the UK’s talent.
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