Barbie model, Canadian CEO Melissa Sariffodeen gets a one-of-a-kind doll

As International Women’s Day approaches, Canadian Melissa Sariffodeen, co-founder and CEO of Canada Learning Code, is one of 12 women to be inducted into Mattel Inc.’s Barbie program and receive a unique doll made of her own. kind in their likeness, alongside TV icon Shonda Rhimes and makeup artist Pat McGrath, among others.

“It’s like a pinch moment,” Sariffodeen said. Yahoo Canada ahead of Wednesday’s announcement. “It’s really such an honor, I played with Barbies as a kid, I also have an Instagram account for Barbie Developer now, so it’s something I’m a big fan of, even in as an adult.”

“It’s just an honor to have our work recognized and [have] an opportunity or a platform like this to show young girls, in particular, that they can do it too. But it’s surreal.

When the Sariffodeen family got their first computer when they were around 11 years old, Sariffodeen spent a lot of time building websites and was completely hooked.

Entering high school, Sariffodeen took a computer science course in 9th grade, but that’s where formal computer education stopped.

“My high school actually offered computer science…but it just wasn’t something I was encouraged to do, even though I was doing well,” she explained.

But that didn’t stop Sariffodeen, who continued building websites throughout high school and into college.

Sariffodeen knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur since she was a teenager and after graduation she looked for opportunities to learn more tech skills, along with the other co-founders of Canada Learning Code, but they didn’t not completed.

“There was really nothing that appealed to us, as women, they weren’t social, collaborative,” she explained. “We were one of the few…women to attend these meetings which were taking place in Toronto at the time.”

“That’s really what started the organization, it’s just wanting to create something that we also wanted to be a part of, to really build and learn our skills.”

Canada Learning Code, which began as Ladies Learning Code, is focused on digital empowerment, giving children and adults the knowledge and skills to create and grow the technology we all use and consume. »

“There’s this immense confidence and possibility that comes from being able to create something,” Sariffodeen said. “We see that in our workshops all the time, ‘aha’ moments, or just the feeling, ‘oh, I can do this.'”

“A lot of people might not put all of these skills into their careers, although we hope a lot of them will, but having those foundational skills is so important because we all use this technology and so we want that the world is representative and that the technology we are used to being representative of the people who use it and to be built by the people who use it.

Mattel Inc. Barbie Role Model Dolls, 2022 Lineup

“There just aren’t that many role models”

The “Dream Gap” research, led by New York University psychology professor Dr. Andrei Cimpian and assistant professor Dr. Andrea Vial, funded by Mattel, found that girls, from five-year-olds begin to doubt their potential and “lose confidence in their own competence”. The research also found that girls aged five to 10 are less likely to volunteer for leadership positions, with a perceived backlash to taking on more responsibility.

With many people growing up in a world where our toys as children are gendered, the concept of girls playing with dolls while boys have video games and build toys like K’Nex, Sariffodeen pointed out that it’s important to see a brand like Barbie, through its role model program, use its platform to change those stereotypes and perspectives for young people, in particular.

“There’s a fair amount of research that points to how important role models are in helping to change that narrative,” Sariffodeen said.

“I think it’s a huge step in the right direction to profile that you can be anything and the kinds of careers that are out there, and they’re not just for a particular identity or a particular person. “

Melissa Sariffodeen, CEO and Co-Founder of Canada Learning Code honors with a one-of-a-kind Mattel Inc. Barbie doll as a Barbie model

Melissa Sariffodeen, CEO and Co-Founder of Canada Learning Code honors with a one-of-a-kind Mattel Inc. Barbie doll as a Barbie model

For Sariffodeen personally, she acknowledges that she had no women to look up to as a role model.

“Most of my [Grade 9] class, majority, I think I was one of two girls in that class,” she said. “That ratio got worse as you went through 10th grade and beyond.”

“In Canada’s tech industry, only a quarter of all roles are held by women. There just aren’t that many models. Post-secondary enrollment rates are also very low. It’s something that I would have benefited from a lot, just to be able to see someone who looked like me pursue a career like that, pursue an education like that.

Sariffodeen pointed out that there is also a “social encouragement” component, where girls, in particular, are not only exposed to these careers where women have historically been absent, but also encouraged and supported to pursue these opportunities.

“Having these types of stories and these types of careers profiled so prominently…then also can legitimize it for parents who then can be that social encouragement,” she said. “A lot of parents don’t know these are possible careers either.”

“So I think that’s where it comes hand in hand. Having such iconic and ubiquitous platforms [to] sharing and talking about these types of opportunities just helps the people in the children’s lives that guide them to make these decisions, also helps them encourage their young ones and the children in their lives to pursue as well.

As Sariffodeen looks to the future of Canada Learning Code, the main goal is to reach as many people as possible, including teachers from across the country, to introduce students to computing and coding.

“I think the more role models we can highlight in this space, the more careers we can highlight, and then the more opportunities we give young people to build themselves day in and day out, that’s what we’re really working towards in as an organization,” she said.

Barbie’s 12 Global Models for 2022 are:

  • Melissa Sariffodeen (Canada): CEO and co-founder of Canada Learning Code

  • Shonda Rhimes (USA): founder of American television production company Shondaland

  • Ari Horie (US/Japan): Founder and CEO, Women’s Startup Lab and Women’s Startup Lab Impact Foundation

  • Pat McGrath (UK): makeup artist and founder of Pat McGrath Labs

  • Adriana Azuara (Mexico): Founder of All4Spas

  • Doani Emanuela Bertain (Brazil): Teacher and founder of Sala 8

  • Jane Martino (Newton) (Australia): President and co-founder of Smiling Mind

  • Lan Yu (China): fashion designer

  • Butet Manurung (Indonesia): Founder and Director of SOKOLA

  • Sonia Peronaci (Italy): founder of the Italian cuisine website “GialloZafferano”

  • Tijen Onaran (Germany): CEO and founder of Global Digital Women and co-founder of ACI Diversity Consulting

  • Lena Mahfouf (France): Digital creator, videographer and author of “AlwaysMore”

Rebecca R. Santistevan