A Barbie construction toy? Why not?

The first building toy in the Barbie line goes on sale next week. Maybe it will encourage more girls to go into the field.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 6, 2012 10:42AM
MEGA BrandsIn her 53-year history, Barbie has lived an exciting life. She has soared in the Space Shuttle, plunged into the depths of the ocean in her scuba gear and felt the roar  of the open road on her Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Now, she may face her biggest challenge yet: Cracking the male-dominated construction industry.

Earlier this week, Mattel (MAT) announced plans to sell Mega Bloks Barbie, the first construction toy in the history of the Barbie line. This toy, which goes on sale Dec. 12, allows girls to build the hot pink Barbie world of their dreams. In coming years, girls may draw on their experience with the toy in the real world of construction, which remains eager to recruit women.

Though women have made inroads in recent years, the construction industry remains dominated by men. That's a pity. The average salary of a construction worker is $44,000 per year, well ahead of the $25,000 earned by hair stylists, a field dominated by women, according to Indeed.com. Roxanne Rivera, head of the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Mexico, tells MSN that women continue to be discouraged from entering the industry.

"Because the construction industry involves a great deal of multi-tasking, women excel in this industry," she writes. "This is not stereotyping, it is just a fact. If girls can get interested in construction at an early age, their horizons will begin to expand and they will realize that they too can enter into the construction industry."

The toy is clever for many reasons. For one thing, home-improvement shows are among the most watched shows on the air. Many kids are probably viewing them along with their parents and may imagine themselves one day flipping houses and designing dream kitchens. As the New York Times noted, Mattel is also hoping that Mega Bloks Barbie will appeal to dads, who are "doing more of the family shopping just as girls are being encouraged more than ever by hypervigilant parents to play with toys (as boys already do) that develop math and science skills early on."

Mega Bloks Barbie is a risk that Mattel needs to take. Like other toy companies, Mattel is vying with video games to capture the attention of today's kids.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr


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Tags: Retail
Dec 6, 2012 5:47PM
When my son was 7 years old, he wanted an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas.  Nothing wrong with boys playing with dolls or girls playing sports or with trucks.  A construction toy aimed at girls is long overdue.
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