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  • Writer's pictureKerryDawes

What every female (and male) leader can learn from the Barbie movie

Updated: Nov 18, 2023


Now I know those of you who haven't seen the Barbie movie yet may be wondering what a doll has to do about leadership. But the Barbie movie has so much to say and offer for women, but also women in leadership roles.


The Barbie movie is cheesy, hilarious and good fun, yet it manages to address some incredibly important topics and faces feminism and the patriarchy head on.


Let’s start with America Ferrara's monologue which is the pivotal point in the movie. It’s sensational. It’s written in full below but some key points stand out:


"It is literally impossible to be a woman…….Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong.
…….You have to be a boss, but you can't be mean. You have to lead, but you can't squash other people's ideas.
…….You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.
…….You have to answer for men's bad behaviour, which is insane, but if you point that out, you're accused of complaining.
You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.
It's too hard! It's too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out, in fact, that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.
I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know."


Female Leadership Coaching


When she said this it not only struck a chord, it immersed itself into my very being. It finally gave me the validation and recognition of so many situations that have happened to me in my career (and personal life). And no doubt every other woman out there.


I have heard so many stories from colleagues, as well as my own experience of women being asked to be ‘less than’, ‘smaller’, ‘quieter’, not so provocative. “Try not to come across too aggressive/arrogant/egotistical”. When we see those qualities all around us by some of our male counterparts.


I genuinely believe this feedback isn’t consciously given to women because they are women, but it’s because society has told everyone they don't expect women to have these traits. It doesn’t ‘suit’ them.


And for any men who go to watch this movie, the extreme of ‘Barbieland’ where women lead in all roles, it gives you a glimmer into the world where so many of us feel like we're the minority. For example being the only woman in the boardroom. But also the double standards, being overlooked and this constant need to temper who you are to fit into a mould. I hope you leave the movie with some sympathy and insight into how we can often fee, outnumbered, depressed, and minimalised.


How about we get to a point where as a female leader it’s ok to be selfish? And in fact not selfish, it’s making decisions that are right for you.


How about we aspire to a work where not only are women represented at all levels, but heck, they outweigh them?


I am starting to see this and love working in environments where this happens. New decisions are being made, more empathy is offered and more diverse ideas are being generated. Surely that’s good for everyone?


I know there are so many more topics that need this lens….. Diversity of cultures, inclusion of all disabilities. So let’s start talking about them but, like the Barbie movie, bring some light hearted humour & glitter to the discussion.


I’d love to hear what everyone else thought of the movie and some of the messages it produced.




Full monologue

"It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don't think you're good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong.


You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can't ask for money because that's crass. You have to be a boss, but you can't be mean. You have to lead, but you can't squash other people's ideas. You're supposed to love being a mother, but don't talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men's bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you're accused of complaining. You're supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you're supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.


But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.


It's too hard! It's too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out, in fact, that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.


I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know."


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