Barbie’s numerous outfit changes over the years aren’t just about fashion. From Ballerina Barbie to Business Executive Barbie, her clothes express who she is, what she does, and—most interestingly for a labor market analytics company like Lightcast—what roles women fill in the workplace. In Greta Gerwig’s big-screen blockbuster Barbie, Margot Robbie’s titular character says, “Because Barbie can be anything, women can be anything.”
Sometimes, Barbie serves as inspiration. When Astronaut Barbie debuted in 1965, there was still over a decade before women would be accepted into the US space program, and even longer before they started going on missions. But Barbie also celebrates when women shatter the glass ceiling in a particular role: the 1985 version of the Astronaut Barbie followed Sally Ride becoming the first American woman in space two years earlier.
We at Lightcast know that Barbie isn’t only interesting for her place in toy history. Her jobs over the decades also serve as a marker of how women are represented in the labor market—and where there is opportunity for women to do more. Here are a few of the careers she has held since her 1959 creation, featuring Lightcast data about 2023 job postings, including the number of openings and the average advertised salary. Barbie has to be able to afford all those accessories somehow.
Fashion Designer Barbie (1960)
The first Barbie in 1959 was Fashion Model Barbie, but the next year, she didn’t just wear the clothes; she designed them herself. Fashion Designer Barbie might not be as iconic as her black-and-white-swimsuit-clad predecessor (an admittedly tough act to follow), but she does look smart in her red skirt suit and glasses.
In 2023, demand for fashion designers is pretty rare, making up just .009% of all job postings (sorry, Barbie). Those 2,019 postings advertise an average salary of $75,587. In 2022, women made up 71% of the 22,312 people in the US employed as fashion designers, and we wonder how many of them got their start creating outfits for their own Barbies as children.
Flight Attendant Barbie, aka Stewardess Barbie (1961)
Another early Barbie incarnation was Stewardess Barbie, kicking off with an American Airlines option in the early ‘60s, then Pan Am in 1966, and United Airlines in 1973. It took almost three decades for Barbie to make it into the cockpit (more on that below), but Barbie was working hard to make the skies friendly from the beginning.
This year in the real world, 3,740 jobs for flight attendants represent .015% of all postings. These roles have an average advertised salary of $41,083. Last year, 77% of the 111,230 people employed as flight attendants in the US were women, so it’s no surprise that Barbie has continued her career on the cabin crew over the years, with her most recent stint in 2019 as a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant.
Nurse Barbie (1961)
Nurse is another one of Barbie’s earliest and most frequently occurring jobs, and with 3,072,875 nurses in the US—89% of whom are women—we understand why Nurse Barbie has been such a fixture. Her accessories included a college diploma, a hot water bottle, and a tiny bottle of medicine with a toy-sized spoon.
Nurses are undoubtedly in high demand post-Covid. In 2023, with 1,288,291 job openings marking up 5.3% of all postings in the US. And on the other side of the globe in Australia, there's an urgent need for nurses. In fact, the shortage of nurses has become so acute that healthcare providers have been lowering their requirements to recruit for these hard-to-fill positions. In 2019, 41% of advertised nursing positions required 3+ years of experience, but by 2022 this had become more lax, such that only 27% of postings required that amount of experience.
Doctor Barbie (1988)
Emerging in 1988, Barbie, MD, took a significant leap from designing fashion to diagnosing patients. Dr. Barbie stepped onto the scene with her stethoscope, ready to ensure the health and well-being of her community.
Fast forward to 2023, the demand for doctors is among the highest for all occupations: the 340,829 postings for doctors account for 1.398% of all postings in the US. These roles offer an impressive average salary of $223,726.
Pilot Barbie (1989)
Barbie took to the skies once again in 1989, but this time she wasn't attending to passengers—she was flying the plane!
In today's market, there are 28,247 job postings for pilots, making up 0.116% of all positions. Those venturing into the aviation industry as pilots can expect an average salary of $73,584. Though just 7% of pilots today are women, Pilot Barbie showed that the sky is not the limit for ambitious girls everywhere. And with a pilot shortage still occuring, we could use more high fliers!
Police Officer Barbie (1993)
By 1993, Barbie chose to serve and protect her community, donning the uniform of a police officer. Her accessories included a list of “Barbie Safety Tips”— don’t take rides from strangers, and always wear your seatbelt!
In 2023, 20,221 jobs are available for police officers, representing 0.083% of all job postings, and 17% of current police officer jobs are held by women. The roles in law enforcement come with an average salary of $64,637.
Architect Barbie (2010)
In 2010, Mattel introduced us to Barbie with a blueprint. As Architect Barbie—complete with a scale model of her own Dream House—she inspires young minds to consider careers in architecture and design.
Now, in 2023, there are 10,565 job postings for architects, and women make up 28% of current architect jobs in the US. These positions constitute 0.043% of all job openings, with an enticing average salary of $114,815.
Game Developer Barbie (2016)
By 2016, Barbie had fully embraced the digital age. Game Developer Barbie, with her headphones, laptop, and tablet, encapsulates the creative world of game design, coding, and testing.
In the year 2023, while the demand for game developers is niche, it's a growing field with 687 job postings, making up 0.003% of all advertised positions. Those who enter this innovative industry can expect an average salary of $130,562.
Over the years, kids and collectors have seen the Mattel doll in hundreds of jobs, and Barbie has both reflected women’s participation in various careers as well as pushed the envelope on what people—and especially girls—think women can do. From designing eye-catching looks and the next great game to serving people in the skies and on the streets, Barbie has inspired generations to find their own best fit in the workforce. Of the roles Barbie has held, many are historically female-dominated, but as the world's view of women has blossomed, so have Barbie's representation of occupations. It's great to see this iconic toy showcase the many opportunities women have in 2023; now let's ensure she is getting equal pay for that same work, shall we?