Barbie’s Evolution: Inspiring Careers Beyond the Doll

From Feminine Icon to Feminist Symbol

Barbie's legacy extends beyond being a mere plaything; she's a cultural icon that has not only reflected societal norms but has also played a role in shaping perceptions of women's roles in various professions. As we delve deeper into Barbie's multifaceted journey, we uncover how her influence extends into the professional realm, particularly in the evolving landscape of Personal Assistants (PAs), Executive Assistants (EAs) and Private PAs.

In 1959, Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, brought forth the infamous and iconic Barbie doll. Her inspiration was rooted in the aspiration to create a doll that transcended the infant archetype for her daughter, embodying a woman she could aspire to become.

Barbie's journey, from a little girl's cherished friend to a feminist icon, underwent a transformation that, at times, reduced her to a mere symbol perpetuating unrealistic patriarchal standards and lacking inclusivity. However, Greta Gerwig's 2023 Barbie film has reshaped the doll's essence by representing a diverse range of Barbies and honouring Handler's original intention: Barbie as a symbol of female empowerment.


“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented that a woman had choices.” – Ruth Handler (Creator of Barbie)

Transcending Tradition

From her inception in 1959, Barbie has transcended traditional gender roles. In the professional arena, this is most evident in her various career roles, challenging stereotypes and showcasing that a woman can be anything she aspires to be. The iconic ‘Secretary Barbie’, designed by Robert Best in 2007, symbolizes efficiency and precision, breaking away from the conventional image of secretaries as merely ‘backstage’ administrative figures. ‘Secretary Barbie’ was noticed in her own right
The parallels between Barbie's evolution and the transformation of secretarial roles are intriguing. Historically, both Barbie and secretaries were subject to societal criticism. Barbie faced scrutiny for perpetuating unhealthy beauty ideals, while secretarial positions were undervalued, often seen as subordinate and merely administrative.
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The Rise of PAs and EAs and Private PAs: Beyond Stereotypes


Fortunately, times have changed, and the perception of PAs and EAs has undergone a significant transformation. The outdated notion that these roles are purely administrative has given way to a recognition of the exceptional intelligence and unwavering diligence demanded by these positions. Much like the evolution of Barbie, today's EAs, PAs, and Private PAs represent diverse backgrounds, defy uniform moulds, and are recognized as some of the brightest and most astute individuals in the workplace.

The 1957 ‘Cissy Secretary doll’, accompanied by the quote, "I actually think better in high heels!" is now a relic of the past. Modern EAs, PAs and Private PAs are not confined to overtly feminine portrayals. Instead, they are individuals of diverse backgrounds, genders, races, and ages, each expressing their own unique style within the requirements of the role. They are worth far more than their outward appearance, often graduating from top Russell Group Universities, showcasing exceptional attention to detail, and possessing stellar communication skills.

Adapting to the Era of Artificial Intelligence

In an era where personal assistants face competition from Artificial Intelligence (AI), the role of modern PAs and EAs has evolved beyond being just an attractive visage. These professionals are constantly adapting, proving to be indispensable assets by significantly enhancing and revolutionizing the lives of their employers.

The need for emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, and adaptability has become paramount in the face of AI. The evolving landscape requires PAs and EAs to be dynamic problem-solvers, blending the human touch with technological efficiency. This adaptation reflects the resilience found in the DNA of Barbie herself, who seamlessly transitioned through various cultural shifts over the decades.

The Cinematic Triumph and its Real-world Implications

Greta Gerwig's 2023 Barbie film stands as a cinematic triumph, challenging stereotypes and reflecting the potential to dispel misjudgements within the professional sphere. The movie privileges the notion that women, much like EAs, PAs and Private PAs, play a pivotal role in upholding the fabric of society, seamlessly coordinating the intricacies of their employers' lives.

The lesson from 'Secretary Barbie' becomes even more poignant when applied to the professional realm. The importance of not undervaluing anyone before understanding their true contributions is a lesson that transcends the dollhouse and applies to the workplace.


The Changing Conversation: Education and Career Paths

Over the past two decades, the conversation surrounding PA , EA and Private PA roles has evolved significantly. These roles are no longer seen as secondary or merely supportive; instead, they are recognized as legitimate and challenging career paths. Lego recently released a new ‘EA’ toy, a woman depicted with ten octopus-like arms. This vividly conveys the complexity of PA and EA roles, emphasizing the skills and intelligence required to expertly juggle multiple demands.

School leavers and individuals keen to switch careers, are increasingly opting for specialized training programmes such as the Executive PA Programme offered by London’s Quest Professional, the Business Diploma course provided by the Oxford Media and Business School (OMBS) or Pitman’s online training courses. These programmes impart practical skills essential for the current job market, leading to quicker employment and impressive PA, EA and Private PA salaries that often outcompete those of middle management.

Choosing the EA, PA and Private PA career path offers benefits beyond financial incentives. It provides the opportunity to collaborate closely with impressive individuals, absorb invaluable knowledge, and revel in the diverse and dynamic nature of the role. Being an EA is not a backup but a distinct and fulfilling career choice.

Break the Mould

The PA and EA career choice celebrates diversity and dynamism, offering a fulfilling alternative to the traditional university route. Much like the evolving roles of modern EAs and PAs, this path embodies adaptability, strategic thinking, and a commitment to constant growth – qualities that align seamlessly with the demands of the contemporary professional landscape.Top of Form

Change the Narrative

Just as Greta Gerwig changed the narrative with her Barbie film, you could be part of changing the narrative in your own life and the professional world itself. Negative stereotypes surrounding PA and EA roles can inadvertently act as barriers, preventing individuals from discovering their true professional calling. When these roles are unfairly stigmatized as mundane or limited, ambitious individuals may hesitate to explore the rich and dynamic opportunities they offer. It's essential not to let outdated perceptions hinder your journey to finding a fulfilling career. Be a proactive force in changing the narrative surrounding PAs and EAs, recognizing them as integral contributors to the success of businesses. Embrace the evolving landscape, where these roles demand intelligence, adaptability, and strategic thinking. By being part of the positive narrative, you not only empower yourself to pursue a career that aligns with your skills and passions but also contribute to reshaping societal attitudes, ensuring that future generations can explore diverse professional paths without unnecessary barriers.

Knightsbridge Recruitment: Where Careers Align with Excellence

At Knightsbridge Recruitment, we couple our adaptable approach with our clear understanding of the evolving job landscape and our ongoing analysis of market conditions. Our reputation for providing a thorough and individualized service in recruiting highly-skilled Personal Assistants, Executive Assistants and Private PAs is a testament to our commitment. Our PAs, EAs and Private PAs embody the essence of Barbie's colour-coordinated closet – organized, dynamic, and impeccable in their initiative, but they are also so much more than this. They cannot and will not be put in a box.

Whether you are seeking an EA or PA to transform your bustling office into a space as polished and stylish as the Barbie Mattel Headquarters or the ideal Private PA, to turn your busy home into a Dream House, we would love to hear from you. Contact Knightsbridge Recruitment and let us assist you in finding the perfect pairing for your professional journey.

Knightsbridge Recruitment is a boutique consultancy which has been placing stand-out candidates in the most sought after permanent and temporary Executive Assistant, Personal Assistant, Private PA and executive office support jobs in London, for over 35 years.
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