Does the launch of tech entrepreneur Barbie and Google spending millions of dollars to get more girls coding, signal a watershed moment for female entrepreneurship? Historically, the ICT sector has seen some of the highest levels of gender inequality so for these big brands to be venturing deep into geek territory seems like a significant shift in how we perceive the female career.
If you asked my nine year old self: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the answer would be a clothes designer, ballerina or a maybe a vet. I can still remember the Barbies my sisters and I dressed up and shared, which fit most of these job titles. But now, to potentially get the response “A tech entrepreneur”, is incredible. It’s empowering.
My high school health class highlighted all of the imperfections of Barbie – her boobs were so big that in real life she would fall over, her hips were out of proportion, her feet were wrongly angled (for stiletto heels of course) and her butt was too small. I must admit, I was a little bit crushed learning this at the time. Barbie was someone I had grown up with, I even had my mum’s old Barbie dolls. As a teen, I dismissed Barbie, turning my nose up at her. But now, I’m pleased she’s repositioning as a more empowering female role model.
In Australia, business professionals surveyed by global workplace provider Regus believed they saw a 77% increase in entrepreneurs but only 11% said this is evident amongst females. These statistics are screaming for change.
I chose to go into an industry, Public Relations, which is actually largely female dominated and I’m in an office that is majority women, so I am more removed from ‘gender discrimination’. However, I must admit that when I was entering the big real world of the workforce a few years ago, I was a little shocked that a gender imbalance of pay even exits in the 21st Century. Why aren’t we past that yet?
Now we are seeing brands, along with powerful women, championing change and encouraging women in the workplace. With positive actions from the likes of Sheryl Sandberg (Author of Lean In and gave a TED talk about women in leadership roles), Google Australia’s MD Maile Carnegie, Head of Yahoo Marissa Mayer – and now Barbie, it is a somewhat chartered course that we must continue along. As a young women working my way up the corporate ladder I seek my inspiration from such figures.
We need to see more women in the workforce in roles they love rather than feel compelled to take and we need the pay gap truly equalised. Idealistic? From the bottom of my heart I believe not.
I personally love the new Barbie. Though Huffington Post wasn’t afraid to point out all the difficulties she’ll face as one of a minority in the IT sector (which I think was a rather pessimistic view), what a great promotion of working women amongst probably our most impressionable human beings – young girls! An entrepreneur is not just a typical job, but one that involves striving to work for yourself and pursue your passions.
So let’s not put down our battle gears but keep fighting the fight. Barbie might not be leading it necessarily, but I love it that she’s near the front.
The author does PR consulting for Regus.