As Barbie's fortunes have risen, so have those of Mattel Inc. Chairwoman and Chief Executive Jill Barad.
Last year, Barad ranked 33rd on the Business Journal's executive pay survey. This year, she's climbed all the way up to the No. 2 slot, with a compensation package of $34.6 million in cash, long-term incentive pay and stock options.
That makes Barad, by most measures, the highest-paid woman CEO in America.
Barad earned that distinction largely by reinventing the Barbie doll. Introduced in 1959, Barbie's bombshell figure and single-minded focus on fashion had become liabilities by the 1980s, with feminists charging that they sent the wrong message to young girls.
But under Barad's guidance, Barbie's aspirations have expanded to dentist, airline pilot, executive, rock star and later this year, professional soccer player and basketball player. There is also computer software to allow girls to personalize their dolls.
Barbie is now Mattel's meal ticket, with annual sales growing from $200 million in 1982 to $1.9 billion last year.
"She's prolific at generating ideas," Bruce Stein, Mattel's chief operating officer and president of Mattel Worldwide, says of Barad. "If you go to work all day and all you bring is your head, it shows in the product. Your heart and gut have to be into it, and she brings that every day."
Barad, 46, started at Mattel 17 years ago as a product manager. A year later, she became marketing director for Barbie. She has climbed up the corporate ladder ever since, becoming executive vice president of marketing and worldwide product development in 1988 and president of Mattel USA in 1990, then president and COO in 1992 and president and CEO in early 1997.
Late last year, she assumed the post of chairwoman of the world's largest toy maker, which is headquartered in El Segundo and has 25,000 employees worldwide.
Her cash compensation grew by only $300,000, to $1.5 million last year. But she received long-term incentive pay of $9.1 million and stock options that have a potential realizable value of $23 million in the year 2000.
The Barbie program has gone over well with young girls, some of whom collect Barbies by the dozen often keeping them in their original boxes to preserve as collector's items.
"She has such a unique marketing flair," said Alan Kaye, Mattel's senior vice president for human resources. "She is so in touch with how things are perceived out there. I've watched her make small changes or suggestions that have meant great changes to the product and acceptability in the marketplace."
Barad has initiated several changes at the company that are not directly tied to Barbie, said Sean Fitzgerald, vice president of corporate communications. Those include global manufacturing principles covering child labor, among other things extended family health care benefits (under which an unmarried worker would be allowed to have an additional adult on his or her policy), and casual clothing in the workplace.
She also plans to double international sales over the next five years and produce toys for specific foreign markets, rather than just adapting U.S. products.
Barad, who is from New York, graduated from Queens College in 1973 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and psychology.
Before joining Mattel, she was an account executive for the Max Factor account at Wells, Rich, Greene/West advertising agency and a brand manager for the full line of Coty Cosmetics.
She is married with two sons.
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