For a lot of little girls, Barbie is more than a toy—she’s a role model.
The doll has had almost as many careers as she’s had horrible haircuts at the hands of young stylists, but now, on International Women’s Day, the Barbie brand is blending fantasy with fact and introducing kids to some real-life historic and modern female role models.
Fourteen new honorees have been inducted into Barbie’s “Shero” line of dolls based on real, modern-day inspirational women, and Mattel is introducing a new line called the Inspiring Women series featuring historically important figures.
Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, artist and activist Frida Kahlo and a math legend who broke race and gender barriers at NASA, Katherine Johnson of ‘Hidden Figures’ fame, are the first three women featured in the Inspiring Women doll series.
According to a 2018 survey by Mattel, 86% of moms surveyed are worried about the kind of role models their daughters are exposed to (at times, Barbie has been one of those). That’s why the Barbie brand is now so focused on exposing kids to the right kinds of heroes: Women who are strong, confident, and truly changed the world.
"Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie and we are thrilled to shine a light on real life role models to remind them that they can be anything,” Lisa McKnight, the Senior Vice President and General Manager at Barbie said in a press release.
While the Inspiring Women series is new, honoring real women with Barbies in their likeness is not. Mattel’s existing Shero line, which features modern-day figures, is also getting an update.
Previously announced Shero dolls have been modeled after Olympian Gabby Douglas, filmmaker Ava Duvernay and model Ashley Graham, and last year Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad was honored and her doll became the first hijab-wearing Barbie in history. The women being immortalized as Shero dolls today are all also making history in their own ways.
Artists, athletes, writers and entrepreneurs are among the list of Shero series inductees:
- American film director Patty Jenkins of "Wonder Woman" fame
- American Olympic gold snowboarder Chloe Kim
- Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin
- British boxing champion Nicola Adams
- Chinese volleyball champion Hui Ruoqi
- Chinese actress and philanthropist Xiaotong Guan
- Chinese ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan
- French Michelin-starred chef Helene Darroze
- German fashion designer Leyla Piedayesh
- Italian soccer player Sara Gama
- Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa
- Polish author and journalist Martyna Wojciechowska
- Spanish designer and entrepreneur Vicky Martin Berrocal
- Turkish windsurfing champion Cagla Kubat
Scrolling through the photos of women who’ve seen their likeness shrunk down to Barbie-sized, you’ll notice it’s a diverse group with diverse interests.
Whether your child is obsessed with 17-year-old snowboarder Chloe Kim or 99-year-old mathematician Katherine Johnson, there’s a doll for every interest, and, perhaps more importantly, with women of so many different backgrounds being honored, every girl can find a doll that looks like them.
On International Women’s Day it’s great to see a major toy maker sending an important message to kids: Women are role models, and there are so many different women changing the world in many different ways.