Trying On Careers…

Not content with only out-doing the average woman with her implausible bust to waist ratio, this year Barbie has proven herself to be the ultimate workaholic by taking on her 125th job – totally blowing the average person’s 8.7 jobs in a lifetime out of the water.

A recent press release tells of how girls voted for Barbie to take on her newest role as a News Anchor. It’s a pretty suitable role for an attractive woman like Barbie (just perfect to perch next to a graying old male news-anchor, right?) but it also seems like a bit of a step down when you consider Barbie’s past stints as an Astronaut (in the early 1960’s, before any mere man had set foot on the moon), a Boardroom CEO, a Rock Star and even The President. Hmm… It’s surprising how, even with those strangely slanted feet, Barbie has been able to scale the career ladder with such ease.

But perhaps her career progression isn’t such a mystery… after all, what’s Barbie got to help her get her foot in the door? No, not reams of qualifications or bags of experience! She’s got CLOTHES! As Ruth Handler, creator of the Barbie doll says;

Barbie has always represented that a woman has choices.  Even in her early years, Barbie did not have to settle for only being Ken’s girlfriend or an inveterate shopper.  She had the clothes, for example, to launch a career as a nurse, a stewardess, a nightclub singer.  I believe the choices Barbie represents helped the doll catch on initially, not just with daughters – who would one day make up the first major wave of women in management and professionals – but also with mothers.

Of course, Barbie is a fashion doll and dress-up is the name of the game. But, whilst it’s great to ‘encourage girls to try on different careers’ (as Mattel do with their aspirational schools programme Barbie I Can Be), I do wonder how much this message of ‘dressing the part’ carries on into later life – a quality that is seen as so vital that it trumps such un-important things as common sense, skills and knowledge.

It’s something I’ve mused on before, but reading (Grazia Fashion Editor at Large) Melanie Rickey’s post on Fashion and The Charlie Girl Obsession recently drove the point home once more. As Rickey says;

With the recession still biting, and many, many stylish young women loose on the job market, there has been a notable fashioning up of the daytime working wardrobe of every female I know aged from 20-50. Competition is rife for jobs, especially those in the media and I know I would go for the best put together, most professional and stylish looking young woman if I were hiring. The same goes across all professions. To be taken seriously now, you’ve got to look like you mean business.

Whilst Rickey rightly points out that the career-focussing of women’s wardrobes has forced fashion designers to give women practicality over overt costume-like creations, her post also demonstrates that, now more than ever, women are expected to look the part.

Maybe Barbie has got it all figured out; get the clothes right and the job’s in the bag. Even so, if I had to have Barbie’s hollow head to go along with her-career capturing wardrobe, I think I’d have to pass…

By: Sarah Barnes, 26.05.2010 | Comments (1)
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