Barbie isn’t one to be pigeonholed into a profession just because she’s a woman. She’s had an impressive 200 careers on her resume — doctor, astronaut, computer engineer, CEO and even presidential candidate.
For International Women’s Day on March 8, Mattel (which owns the Barbie brand) is hoping to inspire young girls to embrace the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by honoring a select group of STEM pioneers with their own Barbie doll.
Among them are the Wojcicki sisters — Susan (longtime CEO of YouTube), Anne (CEO of at-home DNA testing company 23andME) and Janet (professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco).
Susan Wojcicki announced in February that was “stepping back” from her leadership role at YouTube after nearly a decade of running the video-sharing platform.
Wojcicki has been involved with YouTube’s parent company Google from its earliest days, when its two founders worked out of her garage in California to build a search engine. She later became Google’s 16th employee and has worked at the company for nearly 25 years.
The group also includes women STEM trailblazers from around the world such as Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a space scientist and educator from the United Kingdon; Antje Boetius, a marine researcher and microbiologist from Germany; Li Yinuo, co-founder of ETU Education, a school startup in China that offers a more personalized education; and Katya Echazarreta, an electrical engineer who has worked on five NASA missions and the first woman born in Mexico to travel to space.
“Our parents fostered independence and a belief that we could truly be anything we wanted to be when I grew up, but most important was to pursue a passion,” Anne Wojcicki said in a statement. “I hope that sharing our stories encourages young girls to try something new, face something that may scare them, and look at challenges as exciting opportunities.”
Mattel said these one-of-a-kind dolls are not for sale and will be gifted to the women who inspired them.
According to Mattel, Barbie herself has held more than 40 different STEM careers, including astrophysicist, space scientist, doctor and robotics engineer. While women in the real world make up half of the US workforce, they still only make up less than one-third of the STEM workforce.
“STEM is a field where women are severely underrepresented, and our hope is that honoring these seven leaders in science and technology will encourage girls to follow their passion in this field,” Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie & Dolls with Mattel, said in a statement.
The Barbie STEM role models are the latest in an effort by Mattel to champion the achievements of women leaders across professions. For example, the company honored television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes with her own Barbie doll last year and style icon Iris Apfel in 2018.
Mattel’s push to expand into Barbies based on real-life extraordinary women has helped boost the Barbie collector market, said Jim Silver, a toy industry expert and CEO of Toys, Tots, Pets & More, an industry review website.
“The Barbie collector market has been strong for many years but Mattel has pivoted to featuring many more role models,” said Silver. “The shift has been extremely popular with their collector fans and also has garnered widespread attention for those role models who should be honored and often don’t get the recognition they deserve.”
Renowned British primatologist Jane Goodall also got her own Barbie in 2022 as part of the Inspiring Women Series of Barbie dolls that are based on women who have been prominent figures in history. The Jane Goodall Barbie was for sale. The Inspiring Women Barbie series, priced at $35 for the doll, are typically sold at Amazon, Walmart and Target stores.
–CNN’s Brian Fung contributed to this story.
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