Today, Mattel announced that in observance of International Women’s Day on March 8, it will release 17 new dolls honoring historical and modern-day accomplished women, from a variety of backgrounds and representing numerous fields, who have each shattered glass ceilings and inspired young girls.
The announcement follows similar moves by Mattel to release dolls that feature more diverse skin colors, body shapes, and occupations. In 2015, Mattel began its Shero program by introducing 23 new dolls with different skin tones. The following year, Mattel made Barbie available in three body types for the first time ever. Last year, the company introduced the first hijab-wearing doll, modeled after American Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.
Now, the dolls will honor 17 accomplished and ground-breaking women, 14 of whom are modern-day figures and 3 of whom are historical figures.
— MATTEL (@Mattel) March 6, 2018
The announcement comes during Women’s History Month just ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, which is intended to celebrate women around the world and their achievements.
“As a brand that inspires the limitless potential in girls, Barbie will be honoring its largest line up of role models timed to International Women’s Day because we know that you can’t be what you can’t see,” said Lisa McKnight, Barbie’s Senior Vice President and General Manager in a press release. “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.”
It’s become increasingly clear that representation can evoke very strong emotional reactions from consumers, as evident by the positive responses to Wonder Woman and Black Panther — both of which have also proven that representation can also be extremely profitable.
In the past, critics have argued that Barbie perpetuates unattainable beauty standards and can lead to body image issues for young girls, and Mattel’s revenue was down 11% last year. With these recent doll releases, Mattel attempts to boost its image, refute the critics, improve its financials, and grow its consumer base.
But this isn’t just a shameless attempt to exploit diversity. Each of these women has broken boundaries in her respective field or otherwise has impressive accomplishments and should thus be celebrated and recognized. And children are impressionable; providing them with real role models from different backgrounds, who are accomplished in different fields, can lay the conceptual groundwork for the child imagining her own potential and realizing all her possibilities.
Below is the full list of women, and their accomplishments, as provided in today’s Barbie press release:
- Patty Jenkins, Filmmaker, USA – The first woman in history to helm a film with a budget in excess of 100 million dollars for WONDER WOMAN, which broke the record for Biggest Grossing Live-Action Film Directed by a Woman – domestic and worldwide
- Chloe Kim, Snowboarding Champion, USA – A first generation Asian-American snowboarding champion and the youngest woman to win a gold medal in snowboarding at the 2018 winter games at age 17
- Bindi Irwin, Conservationist, Australia – International award-winning wildlife conservationist and celebrity who inherited her father’s passion for wildlife and is dedicated to inspiring the next generation to make a difference in the world
- Nicola Adams, Boxing Champion, UK – Two-time gold medalist who is Great Britain’s most successful female boxer of all time and is the only female boxer in the history of the sport to have held all four amateur titles
- Çağla Kubat, Windsurfer, Turkey – Champion windsurfer and member of the Fenerbahçe sailing and windsurfing team who founded her own windsurfing school for young surfers
- Hélène Darroze, World-Renowned Chef, France – Inspirational fourth-generation French chef with three restaurants and two Michelin stars
- Hui Ruoqi, Volleyball Champion, China – Fifteenth Captain of the Chinese women’s national volleyball team who also won gold in the 2016 summer games
- Leyla Piedayesh, Designer and Entrepreneur, Germany – Iranian immigrant and founder of fashion label lala Berlin that incorporates urban-cool and elegant-chic elements in its high-quality knitwear
- Lorena Ochoa, Professional Golfer, Mexico – Athlete, mother, entrepreneur and unbreakable promoter of golf in Mexico
- Martyna Wojciechowska, Journalist, Poland – TV presenter, magazine editor, author, director and the second Polish woman to conquer the Seven Summits
- Sara Gama, Soccer Player, Italy – Captain of Juventus and Italian national soccer team, member of the Federal Board and President of Commission for the development of women’s soccer
- Xiaotong Guan, Actress and Philanthropist, China – Ambassador for “World Life Day,” a joint campaign by the United Nations Environment Program, International Fund for Animal Welfare and The Nature Conservancy, and known as the “Nation’s Daughter” in China
- Yuan Tan, Prima Ballerina, China – Prima ballerina and principal dancer at the San Francisco Ballet and guest principal dancer at the Hong Kong Ballet
- Vicky Martin Berrocal, Entrepreneur and Fashion Designer, Spain – Leads the creative direction of Victoria company with collections that include festive costumes, flamenco dresses, gowns, handbags and jewelry.
- Amelia Earhart – First female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, courageously challenging the conventions of the times by breaking and setting aviation records.
- Frida Kahlo – Artist who gained recognition for her unique style and perspective, and became a celebrated artist, activist and symbol of strength.
- Katherine Johnson – Pioneer in mathematics who broke through barriers of race and gender, and joined a pool of women hired by NASA to work as ‘human computers’ to calculate the trajectory of the first American-manned flight into space.
Who would you suggest for the next round? My picks would be Sally Ride and Harriet Tubman.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.