I’m an Entrepreneur Barbie girl: Toys that are smashing gender barriers

From palaeontologists to entrepreneurs, dolls seem to be doing more than sitting pretty and drinking tea, thanks to campaigns the world over.


Finally, it seems like toymakers have woken up to the fact that girls across the world do more than wear pretty make up and drink tea. Yesterday, Mattel decided to shatter the glass ceiling when they launched the ‘Entrepreneur Barbie’. Well, she does sport more than her fair share of pink pantsuits, but we are not complaining.

Entrepreneur+Barbie+2

The Entrepreneur Barbie comes with a new set of gadgets, comprising a smart phone and tablet.  The marketing campaign of the new Barbie includes a LinkedIn page for Barbie and a billboard in Times Square, New York (as seen above), promoting the hashtag #unapologetic.

We dug into the toy world to find out if there are any others out there that can raise our hopes of play that’s a little bit more in tune with our times and the aspirations of our little girls.

Girls in Science: The STEM bias

There is next to no inspiration in the current variety of toys that help girls engage with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Several campaigns and criticism against the gendered toys that Lego was selling have now forced the company to rethink their product concepts.

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Lego’s Research Institute has released its new science series featuring 3 scientists: an astronomer, a chemist and a palaeontologist.

Earlier this month, Lego announced a radically different new collection titled “Research Institute” which features the first female scientist figurine by Lego. This comes in the wake of much heat they have been facing for their lack of efforts in filling the gender gap in toys. The range is not without its fair share of criticism, especially from feminists, recounts Charlotte Allen, on the LA Times:

Of course it could be said that that the three Lego female scientists, each of them garbed in baggy slacks and shapeless tops, also promote negative gender stereotypes: that women who go into science have bad hair and no fashion sense. At least the pretzel girl boasts a cute dirndl and a fetching long braid. Now, if you’d just put a microscope into her other hand, she might make a STEM role model that girls might want to identify with.

Additionally, a toy called Roominate is promoting interest in STEM among girls through their range of building sets of rooms, doll houses, etc.

She can build!

Another powerful stereotype promoting disinterest in engineering for girls is smashed by a new toy company called GoldieBlox founded by Debbie Shirling whose motto is to get girls building. Their website encapsulates their goal in the following words, “In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math…and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation.”

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GoldieBlox – the engineering toy for girls.

Check out their endearing PSA that shows girls putting together a whole range of toys to make a wonderfully creative mess and a tagline says, “Toys for Future Engineers.”

And finally: a doll that looks like a real person

An educational website called Dying to be Barbie has studied the effects of playing with thinner dolls and the resulting eating disorders among girls to achieve that perfect figure. The impact of these dolls on the self-image and eating habits of girls is very real, and very measurable.

Yet, things are still going strong for the 53-year-old skinny and leggy lass (160 million pounds in sales annually), while toymakers like Lego are still figuring out what kind of toys girls might actually like. Nickolay Lamm, a designer went to Kickstarter earlier this year to launch Lammily, a better and more real alternative to the perfect Barbie.

lammily

These are only a few examples of the many innovative ideas in figuring out the way into a more gender-equitable world. Do you know of any other such pioneering toys?

Riddhima Sharma is an Editorial Intern with The Alternative. The Alternative editorial internship is a chance for students and working professionals across the globe to work with the magazine’s editors in creating real-time content, photo and video stories and more while exploring the fascinating world of sustainability and social impact as it unfurls around us. Write to editor@thealternative.in if you are interested in exploring an internship.


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