Barbieland vs. Kendom: Lessons From the Barbie Movie About Gender Discrimination

Barbieland vs Kendom: Female empowerment in franchising

Female Franchise Leaders Weigh in on Female Empowerment and Sexual Equality in Franchising

Underneath the pink glitz, excitement and nostalgia of the Barbie Movie lie very powerful messages about gender discrimination and female empowerment. The billion-dollar box office phenomenon playfully portrayed blatant sexual discrimination through the dichotomy of its matriarchal Barbieland and patriarchal Kendom fantasy worlds. With a not-so-subtle approach, the Barbie movie uncovered the “real world’s” rampant pay gaps and discrimination — a theme that unfortunately mirrors realities in corporate America today.

Through its matriarchal Barbieland and patriarchal Kendom fantasy worlds, the Barbie movie playfully portrayed gender discrimination. Top photo and video: Warner Bros.

Barbieland vs. Kendom in the Real World

The Barbieland and Kendom worlds may not be so far-fetched. Even after years of progress from the Women’s Rights Movement, gender discrimination still exists in just about every industry. A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the stark gap in salaries and job opportunities between men and women. Thankfully, franchising is helping to close that gap. 

Opportunities in franchising exist no matter your gender, age, race or any other demographic. In franchising, women aren’t penalized for gender identity or for taking time off to care for children. They can succeed as franchise business owners through hard work and the skills they bring. 

Women in Franchising

Franchising is bursting with incredible female role models who have risen to top leadership positions. Sharon Estroff, for example, founded, built, and franchised Challenge Island, a STEAM-based after-school enrichment program franchise. Through Challenge Island, she created her own fun and empowering version of Barbieland within franchising. 

Barbieland vs Kendom Sharon Estroff Challenge Island
Challenge Island CEO and Founder Sharon Estroff

Estroff believes in the boundless potential of franchising. She has empowered herself and dozens of other women to become successful entrepreneurs and leaders. “Challenge Island is built on a firm foundation of girl power, from our all-female corporate team to our ‘Ohana,‘ to the millions of little girls empowered through our STEAM programs,” she says. 

The passionate CEO believes that women can do anything. “Women are smart and savvy but not afraid to be empathetic and compassionate. Building a business from the ground up, especially for a mom trying to balance family and career, can be a daunting task. Franchising allows women to get right to the good stuff — to dedicate their talents and time to growing a proven business model,” she says. “Franchising gives women a solid support system which enables them to tap into all of their superpowers so they can succeed both professionally and personally.”

Empowering Female Leaders

As president of FranFund, Sherri Seiber empowers a team of strong female leaders. She advocates for a workplace where women are offered the same opportunities as their male counterparts, including equal titles, salaries, and benefits. “As a female leader, ensuring equal opportunities for women is of utmost importance to me. This approach aims to break down stereotypes and showcases that women are capable of leadership and success in any field,” she says.

Barbieland vs Kendom Sherri Seiber, Franfund
FranFund President Sherri Seiber (back row center) and her team.

Seiber believes that the inclusive nature of franchising allows women to seize opportunities without limitations. “Just as Barbie says, ‘women can do anything!’—and she has the outfits to prove it. The key to success lies in recognizing talent and merit regardless of gender. Franchising has become a powerful avenue for empowering women, and the growing number of successful women in this industry is incredibly encouraging.” 

A Path to Equal Opportunity 

Franchise consultants have a front-row seat to the incredible opportunities in franchising. Lisa Linkowsky, for example, has walked in the shoes of a corporate employee, a stay-at-home mom, and a franchise owner. Now an acclaimed franchise consultant, author, and TV talk show host, she makes it her mission to empower other women with the same opportunities. “Franchising is a fantastic option for women in all different stages of their lives. Young women who do not want to go the corporate route have a place in franchising. Moms can set their schedules around their kids and build a franchise business. Women who have built amazing corporate careers can set their sites on establishing an empire through franchising. Franchising empowers women because it allows them to do what they want for the life that they want at that moment,” she says.

Barbieland vs Kendom Lisa Linkowsky
Franchise consultant Lisa Linkowsky interviews a guest on her TV talk show, Franchise Focus.

Faizun Kamal is a respected franchise consultant, speaker and author who feels great about helping women level the “paying field” and join a culture with these same values. “Female candidates are visibly excited when I share that a brand was started by a woman or that senior leadership within a brand has systematically built a culture of inclusion and fairness,” she says.

Barbieland vs Kendom Faizun Kamal

Kamal believes owning a franchise is a great option for women who want to work and earn income but can’t put in the hours that traditional jobs demand. Her career as a franchise consultant is a great example. She lives the lifestyle she wants, earns a great living with a satisfying career, and has time to be present for her family. “That’s why many ambitious women opt out of corporate America and choose the franchise route. The very same women who sacrificed years of their personal lives to invest in their professional identities now are saying ‘no’ to corporate America.’’ 

Barbieland vs. Kendom: We Don’t Have to Choose

Despite the gender inequities in corporate America today, there is encouraging news for women who want equal opportunities and pay. Franchising provides options where women can have it all without bias or discrimination. Because of all franchising has to offer, it’s not surprising that female franchise ownership is on the rise. According to the Association of Women’s Business Centers, female franchise ownership increased by 83% between 2011 and 2017. And despite the recent challenges of Covid-19, female business owners comprise nearly one-third of all franchisees. 

Thanks to franchising, women don’t have to be stuck in the world of gender discrimination depicted in Barbie movie’s “Kendom” fantasy world. Today, women can write their own narratives, whether that means creating their own version of Barbieland, or simply having the opportunity to build wealth and lead a fulfilling lifestyle on their own terms.

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Jill Abrahamsen’s career spans more than 20 years in editorial, design, and marketing roles. She serves as editor-in-chief of Franchise Consultant Magazine and FranchiseWire. Through both platforms, Jill reports on franchising news and helps Franchisors spread the word about their brands.
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