Spotlight on Diversity: Kim Culmone of Mattel
October 1, 2019 | Last week, Mattel unveiled a new doll line that made a statement in designing with inclusivity in mind. Creatable World marked the first-ever line of gender-inclusive dolls. Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, played a critical role in making this new line a reality. She’s also the brains behind Barbie’s historic body makeover of 2016 and a member of The Toy Association’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee .
Toy News Tuesday editors talked with Culmone about her role on the committee and how all toymakers can better promote diversity and inclusion within their own organizations.
Q: Why was it important to you to join the Diversity & Inclusion Committee?
Culmone: As a leader, I feel a sense of responsibility to champion change. I want to have a positive impact in the world. When invited to represent Mattel on the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, it was an immediate and enthusiastic "Yes." Diversity matters on so many levels. It’s important that our teams are diverse and the products we create are reflective of our consumers and their lives. While we’ve seen recent progress, there is much more to do, and that requires leaders across our industry to collaborate.
I’m honored to work with the other members of the committee to leverage our collective experience, share best practices, and craft a unified vision of meaningful evolution to impact in our industry. This type of forum for dialogue and discovery is a critical step in continuing to connect with the next generation of kids, parents, and employees.
Q: How can a more diverse workforce also help to better ensure relevancy to today’s more diverse consumers?
Culmone: This next generation of kids is an inspiration to us all and we at Mattel work hard to bring to life products reflective of the changing world. We are all dedicated to––and take responsibility for–– introducing products that allow all children to see something that speaks to them in the toy aisle.
In our industry diversity can come to life in various ways, be it physical product, content, advertising, or staffing. Teams comprised of people with varied lived experiences and backgrounds result in creative output that is more authentic and innovative.
Q: Diversity and inclusivity are topics that are being talked about more in the workplace, but implementing change is another story. Where, in your opinion, does the change begin?
Culmone: It starts with me, and you. Change begins with each of us being personally committed to making incremental shifts in our awareness and behavior. There are many actions, large and small, that can bring about change. New projects like the addition of new body types to the Barbie brand or the ideation of Creatable World – the latest addition to Mattel’s portfolio and the gender inclusive fashion doll brand––started with listening to our consumers and someone standing up advocating for change.
For those with team building authority, focus on recruitment and retention efforts to increase and maintain diversity on your teams. For retailers and buyers, support and create space for diverse product lines. For consumers, buy diverse products.
We can all do the personal work, too. Make a commitment to uncover and dismantle your own unconscious biases. Curate meetings and project teams with unexpected participants to generate open sourcing of ideas. The opportunities for change are endless. It requires individuals at every level of our organizations demonstrating accountability and taking action to create cultures and practices that foster inclusion and belonging. It is one thing to say we value diversity it is another to actively reach out and nurture relationships and behaviors that support diverse voices and perspectives being amplified, listened to, and valued.
Q: You’ve previously mentioned creating space for people to bring their authentic self to the job. What ways do you think toy/youth products companies can better work together to achieve this?
Culmone: I encourage my designers to bring their whole, authentic selves to our work every day because I value their unique perspectives. I want them to feel safe to speak up about unconventional ideas, be who they are, and share their talents and life experiences. What makes us different is valuable and should be celebrated because it can spark innovating thinking.
The creation of this committee is another example. We are competitors and partners coming together for a mission that serves the greater good of us all. It is a great step in the right direction. A step that just may help make important shifts in the toy industry and have a positive impact on our world. Is there really any better thing than that? We get to make toys and do good at the same time. Sign me up!
Q: Any final thoughts?
Culmone: It’s progress, not perfection. Make a commitment and do what you can to increase diversity and inclusion in your workplace. It will take all of us.