Barad, Jill

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Barad, Jill

Mattel, Inc.


As president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Mattel Inc., Jill Barad has made a name for herself as a savvy executive in the toy industry and as one of only four women to head a Fortune 1000 company. Barad was responsible for the boom in Barbie doll sales, which account for more than one-third of Mattel profits. She took part in management decisions that helped to revitalize the company after a corporate crisis in the mid-1980s.

Personal Life

Jill Barad was born in New York City on May 24, 1951, to parents Larry and Corinne Elikann. A television director and pianist/artist, the couple taught their daughter that she could be anything that she wanted to be, that being female was not a barrier to having a career and that no field of endeavor was off-limits.

Career Details

Having been named as one of 1994s "50 most beautiful people in the world" by People magazine, Barad's good looks and fashion sense often lead to comparisons between the Mattel executive and one of the company's most famous products, the Barbie doll. In fact, Barad's first jobs were in the beauty field. While in college, Barad took a part-time job as a beauty consultant for Love Cosmetics. Later, she became a traveling representative for Coty Cosmetics, training department-store sales staff. She sent unsolicited proposals for marketing campaigns to the company's executives, which led to a management position. In less than three years, Barad was promoted to brand manager for the entire Coty line. When Barad married in 1979, she quit Coty to move to Los Angeles, where she became an advertising executive for the firm of Wells, Rich, and Green. One of her biggest clients was the Max Factor cosmetics company. She left the agency when she was pregnant with her first child, staying at home for a few years.

Barad joined the Mattel toy company in 1981, after presenting an idea for selling makeup for little girls. While her proposal was not developed, it led to her job in Mattel's marketing department. In the mid-1980s Mattel suffered a financial crisis when its Masters of the Universe product line dropped in popularity. At a time when the company was looking to reduce inventory and lay off employees, Barad accepted a transfer to product development. This move may have been the key to her longevity at Mattel, although it also earned her criticism for being disloyal to her coworkers and boss.

In her new position, Barad soon demonstrated her ability to generate viable new concepts as well as to enhance existing products. She was responsible for the expansion of the Hot-Wheels toy car line, for negotiating financial deals with key companies like Disney and McDonald's, and for the revitalization of Barbie products. Under her guidance, the Barbie product line grew to account for half of Mattel's revenues in 1992. That same year, Barad was made president of the Girls and Activity Toys Division at Mattel. In addition to improving other products and developing new ones, Barad became a key player, alongside Mattel CEO John Amerman, in negotiating purchases and partnerships that greatly improved the company's fortunes. After 15 years with Mattel, she became CEO of the company in January 1997, when Amerman retired. Consequently, Barad became the only woman to head a Fortune 500 company.

As CEO of Mattel, Barad will be working to expand the company. At the time of her ascension, Mattel's growth was slipping, and a merger with competitor Hasbro toys was abandoned. Business Week reported that Barad counteracted these developments by expanding the company's overseas business, saying, "The business is there for the taking." She will also preside over Mattel's continued push to produce multimedia software and video games, including products that break away from the adventure and combat themes that dominate the market. Barbie products are on the forefront of this campaign. The most popular of the computer programs has been the Barbie Fashion Designer, which allows users to create 15,000 outfits for Barbie that can be viewed in 3-D, and then printed out on special fabric and assembled without sewing. Although some critics question whether these toys simply reinforce sexist stereotypes, Barad sees such products as resources that have been denied to her sex. She told Time, "Equal tools mean equal opportunity . . . . You can explore and create on the computer in boundless ways. I want girls to have those skills at their fingertips."

Some of the most successful products to be introduced by Barad are the Heart Family, P.J. Sparkles, and L'il Miss Makeup. The L'il Miss Makeup doll, which utilizes a color-change technology that allows a little girl to "apply" makeup using cold water on a sponge or "remove" it with warm water, was a project that was particularly important to Barad, since it introduced cosmetics to little girls.

Barad also worked with Amerman to make Mattel more than a doll company, with the acquisition of Fisher-Price, Inc. and Kransco (the Frisbee and Hula-Hoop manufacturer.) She also participated in negotiations for a product agreement with Walt Disney Co. The Disney partnership was identified by Brandweek's John Mc-Manus as one of several influential alliances that are expected to impact advertising on network television due to Disney's ownership of ABC/Capital Cities.

Chronology: Jill Barad

1951: Born.

1973: Graduated from Queens College, New York City, with a degree in English and psychology.

1981: Joined Mattel, Inc. as a product manager.

1982: Named marketing manager of Barbie dolls.

1988: Barbie doll sales climbed to over $1 billion.

1990: Became president of Mattel USA.

1991: Elected to Mattel's board of directors.

1992: Became president and chief operating officer of Mattel, Inc.

As Kim Masters noted in Working Woman, "Barad's rise hasn't been without controversy—whether because of others' jealousy, lingering sexism or her personal style. Her admirers say she has prevailed through a combination of charm, talent, and underlying toughness; detractors say Barad worked her way up the ladder with a false smile, cutting out anyone who got in her way." Certainly, Barad operates in a manner that defies all obstacles. She summed up her professional philosophy for Masters thus: "There's no such thing as 'can't.'" As a boss, Barad tries to inspire her team by reinforcing images of their successes rather than focusing on their failures.

Social and Economic Impact

Undoubtedly, Barad is best known for taking the Barbie doll from an old reliable seller to one of the hottest products on the toy market. Barad masterminded the Barbie "brand expansion" that included many new, and often costly, products. Now there are some 100 different Barbie dolls on sale each model year—costumed for careers such as doctor, business executive, pilot, and astronaut. There are also Barbies in designer clothes, kid-size Barbies, and a Gold Jubilee anniversary Barbie that sold for up to $1000. Over the course of eight years, Barad tripled Barbie sales. In 1988, Mattel reached $1 billion in sales and in 1997, the company topped $4.6 billion. Eighty percent of all sales are generated by its four main brands: Hot-Wheels, Fisher-Price, Disney, and Barbie.

A much sought after executive, Barad limits her board membership to three outside boards: BankAmerica, Pixar, and Microsoft. Finally, Barad's continual success has allowed her to act as a role model to young girls. Her high profile career has served as a reminder of what women can and, indeed, do achieve in the business world.

Sources of Information

Contact at: Mattel, Inc.
333 Continental Blvd.
El Segundo, CA 90245
Business Phone: (310)252-2000


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