Join Club

Progressive Voice: Follow Barbie’s Lead?

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Krysta JonesArlington is a community that has strong tradition of women in leadership positions — in businesses, government, nonprofits and electoral politics.

Carrying on that tradition is something that we cannot take for granted. Fortunately, our community creates opportunities to promote leadership and career opportunities for women.

Recently, the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women, Ballston Business Improvement District, Living Vicky and the Arlington chapter of the National Organization for Women held the 2014 Women in Business Conference titled “Women in Non-Traditional Careers.”

It was a good opportunity to network and listen to panelists in nontraditional careers for women: financial services, law enforcement, entrepreneurship, and corporate executive positions.

Moderated by Maureen Bunyan of ABC7, the panel engaged the audience with personal experiences, words of advice, and thoughts on encouraging women to pursue nontraditional careers.

I believe that we can learn those lessons at a young age. My father tells a story about when I was 2 years old. One minute he was watching me in the front yard and the next minute I was gone. He soon found me at a playground we frequented down the street. Although he helped me to understand risks, he also encouraged me to want to get back to that playground!

I imagine all of the dynamic women panelists have similar childhood stories of independence, taking risks and setting goals, just like I did in wanting to get to the playground.

The event ended with a raffle for an “Entrepreneur” Barbie. Despite her faults, the Mattel doll introduced in 1959 has had nontraditional and empowering careers — astronaut, politician, surgeon, and football coach. In that admirable way, Barbie has been a model for girls and boys to be open to and comfortable with seeing women in all types of careers.

Fortunately, I grew up at a time when women were increasingly encouraged to explore all careers. That helped me decide to go into the “nontraditional” career of politics. In 2014, fewer than 25 percent of elected officials at the federal level, in statewide office, and in state legislatures are women, and only 40 percent of all school board members are women.

A 2013 Huffington Post article cites Census Bureau reports that the leading occupations for women in 1970 were secretaries, bookkeepers, and elementary school teachers. In 2006-2010, the leading occupations, similarly, were secretaries and administrative assistants, cashiers, and elementary/middle school teachers. Leading jobs for men were also similar in 1970 (miscellaneous managers, truck drivers, and production supervisors) and today (truck drivers, miscellaneous managers, and freight, stock, and material movers).

Moderator Bunyan noted that her profession — journalism — has seen increasing numbers of women over time. She remembers when sexual harassment and discrimination were acceptable behavior. Today, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act offers protection to individuals encountering gender-based discrimination such as sexual harassment and direct requests for sexual favors, as well as workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for men or women.

According to Norma Carr-Ruffino, an expert on women in management, economic need drove many women to work. She credits affirmative action for redefining the cultural acceptance of working women and giving people an opportunity to “experience women and minorities in roles that they thought they could never be good at.”

It is important for women and men to be involved in all careers, because they bring unique skill sets that can be very useful. We know the stories of successful men who are entrepreneurs, but women also bring advantages to the table.

For example, neuroscience studies conducted at USC and Duke found women tend to make less risky decisions under high stress situations. “Under low stress situations, men and women make decisions about equally well [but] men took more risks when they were stressed. They became more focused on big wins, even when they were costly and less likely.”

According to neurobiologist Ruud van den Bos, in general men under stress experience a huge spike in cortisol, which degrades decision-making ability, while women tend to experience a smaller spike, creating urgency without impeding decision-making.

Anecdotally, Tara Palacios of Director of Arlington County’s BizLaunch program and one of the forum’s panelists, told the audience that she finds that women entrepreneurs tend to be more detail oriented when they start a business. Generally, they are subject matter experts who can bring a different and experienced perspective.

It is important that Arlington continue to engage the best entrepreneurial minds — women and men — in both traditional and nontraditional careers.

Krysta Jones is the Founder and CEO of the Virginia Leadership Institute and has served as Chair of the Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women.

Recent Stories

ARLnow Daily Debrief for Sep 29, 2023

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

A former ABC News producer whose Columbia Pike apartment was raided by the FBI last year has been sentenced. James Gordon Meek, 53, pleaded guilty in July to transportation and…

Metrorail service was suspended on the Blue and Yellow lines today after a train derailed.

Listing of the Day: 3616 N. Glebe Road

4 bedroom 3 bath 2 car garage 1/4 acre Jamestown Williamsburg Yorktown pyramid

At Generation Hope, we’re dedicated to supporting teen parents in college as they work toward earning their degrees. We are in need of caring child care volunteers for upcoming events on Saturday, October 21st (in Washington, DC), and Saturday, November 4th (in Arlington, VA). Join our growing volunteer community and support us at an event this fall!

At all of our events, we provide free onsite child care for the children of the teen parents we serve, creating a nurturing environment for the kiddos while their parents learn valuable life skills and build community.

If you enjoy working with children and are looking to make an immediate impact in your community, please visit to learn more.

Submit your own Announcement here.

Join us for Arlington’s biggest civil rights & social justice event of the year. The banquet is back in person at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University.

Our keynote speaker this year is Symone Sanders from MSNBC and former Chief of Staff for Vice-President Kamala Harris.

The Master of Ceremonies is Joshua Cole, former state delegate, NAACP President, and local pastor.

Tickets/seating are limited. Purchase your ticket today! Sponsorship opportunities available.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Free Right-Sizing Workshop – How to Get Rid of Your…

Cody Chance and Dick Nathan of Long & Foster are hosting an online workshop on the topic of “down-sizing” Wednesday, October 4 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Every great endeavor begins with a great plan. This workshop will give you the tools

Rosslyn Fall Fest

Join the Rosslyn BID for Fall Fest on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 1-6 p.m. at Gateway Park! Whether you’re in the mood for a refreshment at our hard cider tastings and cash bar, want a bite to eat from the


Subscribe to our mailing list