Entrepreneur Barbie is stuck in a time warp

  @CNNMoney February 25, 2014: 11:31 AM ET
sheryl sandberg barbie

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's organization has worked to change the image of female entrepreneurs, while the new Barbie adheres to old stereotypes.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Barbie is an entrepreneur.

That's great.

On behalf of women entrepreneurs everywhere, I'd like to welcome her. To 1986.

I don't mean to pile on Barbie, I know she's a doll. But her bright pink drop waistline dress, office pumps and leather briefcase are the old stereotype of a female entrepreneur that many are trying to break.

Apparently, Barbie missed the memo last week from Lean In, Facebook (FB, Fortune 500) COO Sheryl Sandberg's foundation. They worked with Getty Images to do away with these fantasy notions of what a female entrepreneur looks like. Here's a great look at how these dated, pigeon-hole images stack up against the newer and more realistic ones.

Clearly, Barbie fell into the trap of setting an unrealistic image of an entrepreneur.

Women entrepreneurs, while still unrepresented, are no longer a novelty. Recent surveys show that 20% of businesses with revenues above $1 million are owned by a woman.

And entrepreneurs -- both women and men -- look like everyone else. There is no uniform. Today's entrepreneur is more likely to wear a hoodie than heels and more likely to tote a tablet than an attaché case.

And images matter. Lack of strong female role models is an oft-cited reason we don't have more women entrepreneurs and business leaders.

No one knows the power of images and the standards they set more than the people at Mattel (MAT, Fortune 500), who, in announcing the new entrepreneur Barbie, said it was, "a great way to encourage girls to also learn about this role."

But I wonder what Barbie is trying to teach here. We should be teaching the building blocks of entrepreneurial thinking: How to recognize opportunities and act on them, how to persevere through setbacks, learn from those experiences and make the necessary changes.

Sadly, those who see or interact with this new Barbie won't get any of that.

As someone who teaches young people how to think like entrepreneurs, I wish I could tell Barbie that entrepreneurship isn't an outfit you put on. It's a mindset. And it isn't measured by your hemline.

Amy Rosen is the president and CEO of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. To top of page



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