Growing up, most women had a Barbie in their lives at some point. Whether you found her artfully arranged on the toy shelf or covered in 'dirt' and tucked away, Barbie has played a significant role in shaping many people’s perceptions and aspirations. In this blog, I’ll be delving into how Barbie continues to influence people, particularly women. I’ll also be examining the latest Barbie movie's contribution to the cybersecurity conversation, with a specific focus on the importance of equity, inclusion, and diversity in cybersecurity.
This blog compliments a talk I did with BeyondTrust, entitled ‘Women in Security – Embracing Diversity in Cybersecurity: The Power of the New Barbie Film.’ In that keynote, I explored the new film’s significance in promoting diversity in cybersecurity and addressing the impacts of underrepresentation. I shared 10 important lessons with our community, which you can access here.
Barbie’s presence in cybersecurity
Since her innovative and revolutionary launch in the 1950s, Barbie has been both celebrated and criticized for what she represents. She’s been viewed as a product of consumer-capitalist society, perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards and reinforcing gender stereotypes. However, Barbie has also been hailed as a symbol of empowerment, challenging societal norms and encouraging girls to dream big and be anything they wanted to be—much like what’s possible for today's cyber professionals.
When it comes to Barbie's presence, she’s played many roles in the workplace – from doctor, lawyer, surgeon, and pilot to construction worker, astronaut, and even a president—but to date, there’s never been a hacker Barbie! Despite this, the latest Barbie movie offers an intriguing perspective on the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the workplace, which will particularly benefit women in the industry.
Directed by Greta Gerwig and with headline stars, such as Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, the movie explores many themes, including empowerment and resilience, personal growth, relationships and connections, representation, and diversity. However, the standout messages for me are those which tackle belonging, identity, and power.
Why diversity “belongs” in cybersecurity
In recent years, the cybersecurity industry has recognized the need for greater diversity and inclusivity. Research has shown that diverse teams bring unique perspectives, innovative ideas, better problem-solving abilities, and higher profits. Yet, the representation of women and underrepresented groups in cybersecurity remains low. This is where Barbie's latest movie steps in to spark a conversation.
By featuring diverse characters from a range of backgrounds, and highlighting their contributions to solving Barbie’s main problem, the Barbie movie sends a powerful message about the importance of inclusivity and belonging in the world. It showcases that anyone, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or background, can make a meaningful impact in the world. And when we apply this to our community in cybersecurity, it means protecting our digital world.
As viewers watch characters like Barbie navigate complex challenges and collaborate with diverse teammates, it becomes evident that she possesses the power to shape perceptions and inspire change. The message conveyed is not just one of empowerment for women in cybersecurity; it also extends to anyone interested in pursuing a career in this field. The representation of diversity allows them to envision themselves playing a vital role in safeguarding cyberspace. With Barbie as a symbol of inclusivity and belonging, the movie encourages individuals from all backgrounds to recognisze their potential and participate in building a secure digital world.
The movie prompts us to consider how diversity strengthens cybersecurity. It emphasizes the need for diverse perspectives in combating evolving threats. Without a diverse team’s input, hackers can continue to exploit vulnerabilities and vulnerable groups that are often overlooked.
Barbie encourages us to see things from another person's perspective. This fosters empathy and understanding, qualities that are crucial in the field of cybersecurity. By understanding the experiences and challenges faced by different individuals and communities, the movie helps us consider and evaluate more comprehensive strategies to ensure women feel included in cybersecurity. With greater inclusivity, diverse cybersecurity teams can together reduce cyber risks.
Examining—and challenging—power dynamics in cybersecurity
In the movie, power is portrayed in various ways, with a focus on exploring gender dynamics and hierarchies. The movie presents a fictional world, called Barbieland, where traditional gender roles are challenged, and power dynamics are examined.
The movie showcases an unequal power balance, with Barbie holding most positions of power in Barbieland. This portrayal challenges traditional gender norms, highlighting the concept of power hierarchy and its impact on women's representation and opportunities. Additionally, the movie entertainingly addresses the idea of power being associated with femininity. By examining power dynamics through a feminist lens, the movie invites discussions about gender equality and representation.
For women in cybersecurity, that’s a good thing. Just as the Barbie movie challenges gender norms and seeks to empower women, it also prompts us to consider the importance of inclusivity and equal opportunities in cybersecurity. By bringing diverse perspectives and talents to the table, including those of women, we can strengthen the field and improve our ability to combat evolving threats.
In cybersecurity, women have historically been underrepresented, facing barriers and biases that have limited their participation and contribution. The movie's exploration of power dynamics and gender equality encourages us to address these disparities. By embracing diversity, promoting equal opportunities, and providing support and mentorship, we can foster a more inclusive and effective cybersecurity community.
Exploring the authentic cybersecurity identity
In the new Barbie movie, identity is subtly explored as a milestone in the quest for authenticity. The film aligns with the current zeitgeist, emphasising the need for more authentic representations of women's experiences and exploring diverse career options beyond traditional gender roles. The portrayal of identity in the movie encourages young girls and women of all ages to explore different aspirations and challenge societal norms.
The movie's exploration of identity highlights the importance of embracing individuality and diverse perspectives in the field. Just as Barbie encourages young girls to break free from stereotypes, women in cybersecurity can challenge preconceived notions and contribute their unique skills and experiences to make a difference. By embracing their authentic selves, women can bring fresh insights and approaches to addressing cybersecurity challenges.
Learning from diversity in the fight against cyber threats
Barbie's impact reaches far beyond the toy shelf, extending into the realm of cybersecurity. As you contemplate the significance of her latest movie, you recognize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in building a stronger and more resilient cyber defense. Just as Barbie has evolved over the years, so too must the cybersecurity industry to embrace and empower diverse voices in the fight against cyber threats.
So, let's embrace the lessons we can learn from a childhood toy and Hollywood blockbuster, and strive towards a more inclusive and secure future for all in cybersecurity. This is not simply a women’s problem. It’s a human one, and therefore a shared responsibility.
Now I want to hear from you…
If you watched the new Barbie movie, tell me whether you enjoyed it, and what lessons you learned.
Then, go watch my keynote talk on the new Barbie movie and access the following key takeaways:
- Uncover the themes and messaging within the film that challenges stereotypes and promotes diversity.
- Discover how the film challenges societal norms and encourages individuals to embrace their authentic selves.
- Explore how the film amplifies underrepresented voices, promoting inclusivity and the empowerment of marginalised communities.
- Understand the profound impact of diverse representation, its influence on social perceptions and what actionable steps we can take to promote diversity, inclusion, and equitable representation in the cybersecurity industry.
Jane Frankland, CEO, KnewStart and Founder, IN Security Movement
Jane Frankland is a British cybersecurity thought leader, entrepreneur, and author with 25+ years of experience in the field. She serves on the board of Black Hat Executive Summit (EU), and her authority is recognised by Wiki, LinkedIn (Top Voices), and UNESCO. Jane's best-selling book, 'IN Security: why a failure to attract and retain women is making us all less safe' has established her as a leading voice on the subject of women. Through her company KnewStart, and several other initiatives she leads, she continues to drive positive change and empowerment for women whilst also working on advisory, leadership, and brand elevation engagements.