Hasbro introduces Ms. Monopoly to celebrate female entrepreneurs

The face of the Monopoly franchise has ultimately stayed the same since the game’s inception decades ago — until now.

Hasbro Inc. is introducing a new version of the classic board game called Ms. Monopoly, where the Monopoly Man, with his mustache, cane and top hat, is replaced by a blazer-wearing, coffee-swilling businesswoman — an “advocate whose mission is to reinvest in female entrepreneurs.”

The rules generally stay the same as in the classic real estate game. But instead of purchasing properties, players buy up inventions and innovations that women had a hand in creating, like Wi-Fi and chocolate chip cookies, Hasbro said in a news release.

Players will build business headquarters instead of houses in this game. And in a move that flips the pay-gap narrative, women start with more money than men; they will also get more money when passing Go.

“Ms. Monopoly was created to inspire everyone, young and old, as it spotlights women who have challenged the status quo,” Hasbro said.

In addition to announcing the game, Hasbro surprised three teenage female entrepreneurs with $20,580 US each to further their projects — the same amount of money included in each Monopoly box.

But since Hasbro’s announcement, the game has received mixed reviews.

Some people are praising Ms. Monopoly for its efforts to celebrate female entrepreneurs and bring awareness to the gender pay gap. Others believe the game is lacking, particularly because it fails to acknowledge a female inventor’s role in the creation of Monopoly, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie.

Wendy Cukier, the founder of the Diversity Institute at Toronto’s Ryerson University, said she likes the game because it uses play to build awareness about some of the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, without being didactic.

“I love the idea of using play and games to try to challenge some of these stereotypes,” Cukier said. “One of the real big barriers to women entrepreneurs is that not enough girls think about entrepreneurship as a viable pathway.”

In this version of the game, women start with more money than men — and collect more when passing Go. (Hasbro Inc.)

This has a lot to do with the fact that we’re bombarded with images of the Mark Zuckerbergs and Elon Musks of the world, Cukier said. As a result, women don’t see themselves among the entrepreneurial ranks.

Eva Wong agrees, saying one of the many challenges she has faced in her own entrepreneurial journey is not seeing other people like herself in leadership roles. She is the co-founder of Borrowell, a company that offers free credit reports for Canadians at no cost.

Wong said she likes the sound of the game — which hits shelves later this month — because it will send a positive message to kids.

“It will help it become more normative for kids of all genders to see women as inventors, as scientists and as entrepreneurs,” she said.

The female origins of Monopoly

Although some have celebrated Ms. Monopoly for bringing awareness to female innovators of the past, Hasbro and the game itself stops short of recognizing the enormous role that Lizzie Magie played in the creation of Monopoly — a history outlined in Mary Pilon’s book The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favourite Board Game.

The story of the game’s creation that most people know is that in 1935, an unemployed man from Philadelphia named Charles Darrow became a millionaire after selling the Monopoly idea to the board game maker Parker Brothers, which was later acquired by Hasbro.

But the idea of Monopoly dates back all the way to 1903, when Magie, working as a stenographer at the time, filed a patent for The Landlord’s Game — a concept that looked a lot like Monopoly as it’s known today.

Magie reportedly only made $500 from Parker Brothers, which bought the patent for The Landlord’s Game in order to secure full legal rights to the idea, leaving Magie hopeful that her game would be published by the company.

This replica of The Landlord’s Game, created by Lizzie Magie and patented in 1904, has a similar design to Monopoly. It includes New York street names, as well as a jail and a ‘Central Park Free.’ (Tom Forsyth)

Hasbro has a different take on the game’s origin story.

“The Monopoly game as we know it was invented by Charles Darrow, who sold his idea to Parker Brothers in 1935. However, there have been a number of popular property-trading games throughout history,” Hasbro said in a statement to CBC News.

“In fact, Elizabeth Magie — a writer, inventor and feminist — was one of the pioneers of land-grabbing games. In 1904, she received a patent for The Landlord’s Game, which was meant to educate people about the dangers of wealth concentration.”

This newspaper clipping from Washington’s Evening Star shows a photo of Lizzie Magie. (Bloomsbury Publishing)

The last part of the statement is appended to a fact sheet that comes with the game, listing out all of the female-made inventions that players come across while they manoeuvre around the board.

But according to Pilon, that doesn’t go far enough.

“Hasbro is a giant company. They have a huge influence, particularly on how girls and boys perceive the world,” she said. “For them to tout this game as feminist and progressive and not acknowledge that a woman invented it was pretty surprising to me.”

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