March is Women’s History Month and we’re kicking it off with a bang. We hate to be the bearers of bad news. We really do. But we wouldn’t be doing our best to promote diversity and inclusion if we didn’t call out one of America’s favorite toy companies, Mattel.
Last month, Mattel, and its wholly-owned subsidiary, American Girl, released several new, diverse barbies and dolls. The new line of Barbies kill the myth that women should only come in one shape and size, and three new body types were released: curvy, tall and petite. And as women of color, we were absolutely thrilled to see our Latina and Asian American sisters represented in the new dolls, as well.
We also fell in *love* with the abundance of new, diverse features – big curly hair, varying shades of brown skin, and curves and hips for days. As women who grew up with only one kind of Barbie that didn’t at all look like us, we were beyond excited to see that ALL young girls, no matter their race, ethnicity, size, height, or hair texture, will be able to actually see pieces of themselves or their bodies reflected in their Barbie dolls.
Then Mattel decided to wow us a little more with a new American Girl doll, Melody Ellison. In American Girl’s 30-year history, they have only released one other African American doll, Addy, who was an escaped slave. Melody Ellison hales from Detroit, Michigan and grows up with the Civil Rights Movement, Motown Records, and the black church as her back drop. For obvious reasons, our girl crush grew even stronger.
We really should have stopped there. We could have just basked in our love for these new dolls and been proud of how they would positively impact the self-esteem of so many little girls who never see themselves or their beauty reflected in mainstream media.
But we didn’t.
Our excitement was so great that we wandered onto Mattel’s website to learn more about these new dolls.
And then we did the unthinkable – we clicked on the “Mattel Leadership” button. After all, we wanted to see the leaders of this company who were so committed to diversity and inclusion that they launched all of these new barbies and dolls.
It was at this point that we fell off cloud nine because Mattel’s CEO, CFO, COO, Chief Supply Chain Officer, and Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel are all WHITE MEN. Every. Single. One. Let us repeat that in case you missed it – Mattel’s top leaders and executives who seem so committed to diversity in their barbies and dolls have no diversity amongst themselves. Not one woman. Not one person of color.
This is troubling on so many levels. Because how can you be a company that says you are committed to diversity when your top executives don’t reflect the same rich diversity as that of your new dolls?
And what message does Mattel’s lack of gender and racial diversity at the top send to young girls who play with dolls now, but dream of running board rooms and corporations later? Listen we’re not knocking the new diverse barbies and dolls. If you read any of our previous comments, we are congratulating Mattel on a job well done. But if you really care about diversity and inclusion, or want to reflect the nation’s changing demographics, or the 20% sales decrease over recent years, maybe you should start from the inside…from the top. Your senior leadership is not reflective of the nation’s changing demographics or your main consumer. In honor of Women’s History Month, maybe you should look at not only changing your product to reflect the world around you, but changing your top executive compilation to actually match whose buying your product.