Barbie has over 150 jobs on her resume. She’s been a football coach, a doctor and even president. But her latest gig might be her toughest challenge yet.
Mattel, all-powerful Barbie maker, announced Wednesday that Barbie will be trying her luck as a tech entrepreneur. But compared to Ken, Barbie's life as a woman in Silicon Valley will be quite the challenge.
For one, she’ll be outnumbered.
The hub of the tech industry in Silicon Valley is male-dominated, plain and simple. While the exact share of female engineers working in Silicon Valley is hard to pin down, a recent attempt by Pinterest Engineer Tracy Chou found that just 12.4 percent of engineers at major tech companies are women.
What’s more, 43 percent of the 150 largest Silicon Valley companies by sales have no female representation on their board of directors.
Not into statistics? Just take a look at the bathroom line at Apple's recent Worldwide Developers Conference. Yes, that is a long line for the men's room, and no line whatsoever for the women's room. Only in Silicon Valley.
Apple WWDC...where there's a long bathroom line for men and not women. pic.twitter.com/Vuf34MMDJz
— Jo Ling Kent (@jolingkent) June 2, 2014
She'll also have to overcome a widespread culture of sexism.
Evidence of sexism within the tech industry is pervasive. Just look at "brogrammer" culture. Or the executives who resigned in the wake of multiple sexist tweets. Or overtly sexist apps like Titstare, which is supposedly a “parody."
Need further proof? Last Halloween, a “Hackers and Hookers” party in Silicon Valley occurred in spite of widespread disgust. Alleged confessions from female tech employees on the anonymous app Secret paint an even grislier picture.
And she'll face discrimination while raising funds for her startup.
Entrepreneur Barbie's startup ideas include an Etsy-like online crafts store, according to the PowerPoint. But she may have a hard time winning venture capital funding over her male competitors. Just 7 percent of venture capital funding goes to female-led startups, even though women found 60 percent of small businesses.
Part of the reason is that just 3 percent of venture capital funders are women, according to Forbes, and male investors have said that they prefer to invest in entrepreneurs with profiles similar to those with proven track records. (Read: white, Ivy League-educated men like Mark Zuckerberg.)
A recent study also found that women were less likely than men to win investment dollars, especially if those men look like a Ken doll.
Ironically, women-led private technology companies also see higher returns on investment than ones led by men, according to a report last year. If only all those male investors would pay attention.
But not all hope it lost for Barbie. In fact, some female tech startup entrepreneurs are finding more and more success, and tech industry executives like Marissa Meyer and Sheryl Sandberg are paving the way for more female-led tech companies. For examples, look no further than Barbie’s so-called "Chief-Inspiration Officers" -- 10 female entrepreneurs like Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code -- that Mattel has signed on for the launch.
Entrepreneur Barbie is also joining a number of recently released toys designed to encourage girls’ interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), most notably Lego and Goldieblox.
"Barbie is uniquely equipped for this challenge because she's a trendsetter," Saujani wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. "If she can bring the next generation of girls with her on her journey into entrepreneurship -- the whole landscape will change.”
Still, it's unclear whether Entrepreneur Barbie will really help pave the way for American girls. A recent study found that playing with Barbie, even if she’s wearing an outfit associated with a specific career, such as a doctor’s lab coat, limits girls' perception of what careers are open to them.
Here’s to hoping Entrepreneur Barbie bucks the trend.