What Barbie’s many careers say about feminism and American girlhood


Barbie’s résumé — hundreds of pages long, covering decades of career changes — tells the story of our evolving aspirations for little girls. Though her earliest careers tended to be female-coded entertainment or caregiving positions — fashion model, ballerina, nurse, student teacher — Barbie’s career trajectory is a triumph of feminist ambition.

She went to space before any woman did and has run for president multiple times. And these days, she’s pursuing several careers in STEM. Come along with The Washington Post as we parse her CV for its insights on vocation, feminism, cultural and political trends, and American girlhood.

Barbie’s jobs over the years

Illustrated graphic showing different Barbies across the decades.

You would definitely want to hire Barbie. She’s excelled in more than 200 careers over 60 years, and shows no sign of fatigue or inclination to retire — she’s ageless. If we break her résumé down by categories, we can see what types of jobs she’s performed over time and how her skill set has evolved from fashion model to microbiologist (and firefighter, and rock climber, and bakery chef, and hairstylist, and …).

A year-by-year breakdown

Circle timeline chart showing Barbie’s jobs over the years

Arts and entertainment

(The Washington Post)

No surprise here: Barbie’s most popular career field for most of her life has been in the entertainment industry. She can sing (pop, jazz and country), she can dance (ballet, ballroom, and even the cancan), and she can act, paint, arrange flowers, play the saxophone and host a game show. In 1992, Rappin’ Rockin’ Barbie dropped some sick beats. In 2023, she became a stylist in Brooklyn. Could a career as an influencer be next?


(The Washington Post)

No woman has climbed the corporate ladder and broken the plastic ceiling as deftly as Barbie has. She’s worked a number of low-wage gigs — including, notably, three times as a McDonald’s cashier — but steadily worked her way up to the top.

Barbie is an entrepreneur who has opened a dog grooming business, ice cream cart, clothing boutique and food truck. And she made it to the c-suite before most women did — her first executive job was in 1963, nine years before any woman became a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Lately, she’s been working as a chief sustainability officer.

Medicine, science and engineering

(The Washington Post)

Yes, one of Barbie’s first medical jobs involved an impractical uniform of skirt scrubs. But she’s made up for it with a dazzling array of scientific careers ever since. Barbie has been an astronaut, surgeon, paleontologist, microbiologist, astrophysicist and a conservation scientist. STEM has been a major focus for Barbie lately, as Mattel has been emphasizing careers where women are underrepresented.

Politics/public service, transportation and education

(The Washington Post)

If everything is perfect in Barbie World, it’s thanks to Barbie’s unparalleled record as a public servant. She makes the trains run on time (she was a conductor in 2001). She has served in nearly every branch of the military and taught nearly every subject in elementary school. She fights crime and fires; she flies planes as a commercial pilot, and jumps out of them as a paratrooper. She has been on the presidential ballot six times since 1992. She’s also been a superhero — we’re counting that one as public service.


(The Washington Post)

Barbie is the true GOAT. You name a sport and she’s probably done it, and earned an Olympic gold medal, too. There are the basics — tennis, soccer, baseball, basketball, gymnastics — and some unusual sports she’s excelled in. Like boxing, in 2020 — doesn’t she worry about breaking that perfect nose? And bowling, in 2000. And bull fighting, in 1999. Alas, Spanish matador Barbie used a red — not pink — cape.


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