A Lesson From Barbie on Diversity And Acceptance All Women Leaders Should Hear

By Eryka T. Johnson

Is there a lesson to be learned on diversity and acceptance from the recent Barbie brand makeover? If you haven’t heard, Barbie dolls will be available in petite, tall, and curvy sizes with your choice of skin tones, hair textures, and hairstyles. Young girls have an opportunity to improve self-image and increase self-esteem while celebrating both their unique size and skin color. This comes after years of the customer base asking Barbie for a variety of dolls not just the skinny one with straight hair.

What a change towards female empowerment?

I truly know what it feels like to not be accepted or have my ideas heard. I recall being in a leadership development program at the University of North Carolina in 2013. The room was full of leadership high potentials that were either being groomed for executive or technical leadership. For a portion of our time there, we had to work in teams and complete this one exercise I’ll never forget. It was actually a computer game on building a great plan surrounded by the right team to deliver the best results but with a twist. There were times that unexpected things came up that changed the conditions of the game.

On my team, there were at least four women. We took time to strategize and develop a plan. Once the game started however one of the women literally took over. It’s almost like a switch came on and she transitioned into this crazy woman on an island by herself. Two of the women were willing to let her take the lead but I spoke up and things got heated. I eventually caught myself and had to calm down.

Key recommendations I made were totally ignored and it was like “a one woman show.” We allowed her to make the major decisions on who should be on the team and what scenarios to play next. Needless to say, she failed miserably. The scores were awful. After that instance, she realized that she needed the insight of others in the room and was willing to hear our ideas. By the way, the suggestions I made boosted the scores immediately and allowed us to complete the exercise successfully.  

We are all different. We all possess strengths. Our creativity comes in different forms. The way we express ourselves is specific to how we view the world and things around us. Learn to accept and respect the woman leader next to you. Reach out to her and find out how you can collaborate rather than compete. When you combine ideas and different viewpoints the resulting hybrid often delivers better results.

Is there a woman leader you need to reach out to today to either congratulate her on her success or offer your support?

Thanks Barbie! This change happens just before Women’s History month in March and I celebrate you. Finally, you listened and have shown the world what diversity means to you as a brand. You have taught us how to embrace others regardless of our differences.

These new Barbie dolls will start hitting stores March 1, with a total of 33 new dolls being rolled out by the end of the year.

Share this article with every woman leader you know.

Stand out,

Eryka T. Johnson

Leadership Brand Strategist, Author & Keynote Speaker