The Economic Power of Women :: The Barbie Movie

The Economic Power of Women :: The Barbie Movie

This isn’t a movie review. If anything, it’s more of a weather report. And, in case you haven’t noticed, the skies are quite pink these days.

Over the past week, I’ve been unable to escape the whirlwind of headlines about the Barbie movie and its record-breaking success, making it one of the highest-grossing films this year. Despite the flood of press, tie-ins, and the all-out media-blitz, I have no intention of watching it – no offense to Barbie. Every time I encounter headlines like “First Weekend Earnings: $153M!” I can’t help but be impressed by the numbers. 

During my childhood, I was never a die-hard Barbie enthusiast, although I did own a few dolls and her iconic Malibu house. Nothing against Barbie at all, but any overwhelming embrace of the color pink has never resonated with me. (Do NOT get me started on pink Legos.) But one thing that does resonate is making an impactful statement. For me, the takeaway from Barbie’s instant success is not the hardcore workouts of the actors, the powerhouse female director (she is cool though!), or the debate over whether it is feminist empowerment or it is a depressing commentary on the “real world.” The most significant takeaway here is the undeniable economic power of women.

As I understand it, in the movie, Barbie is surprised when she begins to experience the “real world.” Those of us who actually live in it should not be. We live in a world where every day women’s power, economic, intellectual, or otherwise is not fully recognized or valued. Instead of celebrating the Barbie movie with shiny shirts, Instagram filters, and glitter, let’s have a real conversation about who holds the power. This should be a moment for us women, and for our daughters.

Women’s increased participation in the paid workforce has led to greater influence over consumer spending. No matter where you look, market research has consistently shown that women play a crucial role in shaping trends, influencing purchasing decisions, and driving market demands. Props to him if you have a male partner who takes charge of all the shopping, but it is a well-known fact that my brilliant, Jesuit-educated husband cannot find the produce section of the grocery store. But it’s not just groceries, we tend to control a substantial portion of household spending, including retail, fashion, beauty, health, wellness, and family entertainment, like movies. Imagine the effect on consumer spending if we could just close that gender pay gap. But I digress. 

The New York Times said: ‘“Barbie” arrived as a full-blown cultural event, with thousands of moviegoers draping themselves in pink for screenings, doll memes flooding social media and marketers scrambling (sometimes awkwardly) to glom onto the moment. The audience was 65 percent female.’ From my NewsFeed, I’d think that the percentage was higher, but I fit the target demographic for this content. All the memes and filters are taking away from the true message: The “real world” is hard on women.

Whether you plan to put on your pink blazer and see the movie, or you are staying far away (like me), you do you. I’m not judging. I am, however, reminding everyone that the Barbie movie’s triumphant journey to box office sensation would not be possible without the economic power of women. Women are truly a force of nature that demands everyone’s respect. If anything, I’d like to see the Barbie movie serve as a powerful example of our influence as consumers, and a reminder that we have much work to do when it comes to equity in the “real world.” We are trendsetters, decision-makers, and drivers of market demands – and we should be recognized as such.

Let’s leverage this movie and this moment to have a real conversation.

Stephanie Davi-McNeely
Stephanie Davi McNeely has been in and around the nonprofit fundraising space for nearly twenty years. She oversees development and strategic partnerships, for the ACE Mentor Program of America, a national nonprofit mentoring program based in Philadelphia. There she is responsible for corporate and individual fundraising initiatives, as well as the growth and development of national partnerships with design and construction firms. In her spare time, she plays mom’s league softball, watches her son play soccer, takes French class through the Alliance, and serves as the First Lady of the University of Holy Cross in Algiers. She resides in New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband and 11-year-old son.


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