Center for American Progress

RELEASE: What Barbie Can Teach Us About the Gender Wage Gap
Press Release

RELEASE: What Barbie Can Teach Us About the Gender Wage Gap

Washington, D.C. — Doctor, physicist, lawyer—these are just some of the high-profile careers represented by Barbie dolls over the past 60 years and in the recently released movie. They are also examples of well-paid professions where women are underrepresented and paid less than their male counterparts. A new Center for American Progress analysis breaks down what Barbie can teach us about the gender wage gap and how, despite decades of efforts and progress on boosting women’s representation in the U.S. economy, women still face a pay gap in nearly every single occupation—even high-paying ones. 

While men are more likely than women to work in high-paying jobs, the few women who do work in these jobs generally earn less than their male counterparts. This new column looks at how women are underrepresented in high-paying jobs and how a pay gap exists within these jobs. The column also highlights that many of the same jobs represented by Barbies over the past few decades—such as lawyers—remain male dominated and that occupational segregation plays a role in the persistent gender wage gap despite the progress women have made in these fields.

“Barbie can be seen as emblematic of aspirations for gender equity in the workplace,” said Rose Khattar, director of economic analysis at CAP and co-author of the column. “But it’s up to policymakers to ensure that both women now and future generations of women have equitable access to good jobs. Raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing universal paid leave can help create pathways and knock down age-old barriers to male-dominated fields.” 

“Barbie’s impressive careers over the decades at high-paying jobs show that, at all career levels, women face a persistent gender wage gap,” said Sara Estep, associate director of the Women’s Initiative at CAP and co-author of the column. “But these jobs are not representative of the typical working woman. Policymakers must take action to ensure women have access to well-paying jobs in all sectors and to ensure that these jobs are safe and free from harassment.”

Read the column: “What Barbie Can Teach Us About the Gender Wage Gap” by Rose Khattar, Sara Estep, Lily Roberts, and Maggie Jo Buchanan

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sarah Nadeau at

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