The odd couple

The odd couple

Why a blue collar CEO teamed up with Mattel to
make the trades a cool career choice for young girls

At first glance, the Barbie brand and Yarmouth-raised construction magnate Mandy Rennehan appear to be an odd match. After all, the founder and CEO of Freshco—a retail maintenance business—has a personality that is the opposite of the image the blonde-haired, blue-eyed doll has represented for decades.

“I didn’t play with Barbies,” Rennehan says. “But young women still have a fascination with them and it’s still an influential brand.”

And that’s why Rennehan agreed to partner with Mattel, the toy company that makes the doll, on a ‘Barbie you can be anything’ mentorship event that was held in her Nova Scotia hometown in November. The event was a way for Mattel to promote its latest Barbie doll—Construction Barbie. But it was also a way to promote the trades as a career path for young girls.

By 2020 the Conference Board of Canada expects that Canada will face a shortage of one million skilled workers. In the trades, the impending worker shortage could be partly alleviated by more women taking up trades as a career. The Yarmouth event saw one girl, eight-year-old Xoe Nickerson (left), win a contest to spend the day with Rennehan learning about the construction trade. The event also included a pop-up party at the Yarmouth Mall where 300 Construction Barbies were handed out for free and other activities were held.

Could the partnership of Construction Barbie and Rennehan entice more young girls to enter the trades? Rennehan thinks it can, and along the way possibly inspire them to become entrepreneurs with a focus on trades like construction. “The numbers are still not impressive for women wanting to be part of our industry,” Rennehan says. “But there could be 20 to 25 per cent of women I can touch with this brand and change the thought process—even with Barbie.”

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