Barbie and the European Space Agency (ESA) have partnered to inspire girls to become the next generation of astronauts, engineers and space scientists, as the latest phase of the doll-maker's 'Dream Gap Project.'
Dovetailing with the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon-landing - an event that placed two men on the Earth's natural satellite - Barbie's European director of marketing Isabel Ferrer said it is "the perfect moment to highlight how many women are now astronauts versus men."
"We realised there was just one woman [astronaut] active in Europe," Ferrer said. The fact that now, fifty years since the landing, just 15% of active astronauts are female while no woman has ever landed on the moon, shows there is a gender problem that originates at childhood.
As part of th project, Barbie has created a one-of-kind doll in the likeness of Samantha Cristoforetti, the only active female astronaut in Europe. As part of a commitment to highlight at least 10 real-life empowering role-models each year, the model aims to inspire girls across the world to follow in her footsteps.
As part of the partnership, it commissioned a report to try and gauge parental attitudes and knowledge around Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
After it found that parents lacked knowledge about space and STEM-related careers for their daughters, Barbie addressed the issue by publishing a set of STEM tips for parents and caregivers that have been written in conjunction with Dr Elizabeth Kilbey, Consultant Clinical Psychologist working with young children and families.
As part of the partnership, a series of motivating new short-form videos aimed at parents and young girls show Cristoforetti welcoming girls from the Germany, UK, France and Italy into the ESA European Astronaut centre in Cologne, Germany.
Additionally, there will be kids-targeted content on Barbie’s YouTube vlogger channel highlighting Cristoforetti’s achievements.
Barbie's partnership with ESA is part of the Barbie Dream Gap Project - an initiative it hopes will help it shed its old-school image and connect better with its market.
As Barbie reaches its diamond 60th anniversary this year, the famous Mattel toy has done a lot of growing up since the first doll hit stores in 1959. Perfectly blond with unrealistic body proportions, the brand has often been at the receiving end of criticism from women advocates who condemned the doll for setting unrealistic and damaging expectations for young girls.
In recent years, the brand has woken up to the significant role Barbie dolls can play in ensuring young girls recognise their full potential and has endeavoured to smash the dangerous stereotypes its dolls were once accused of.
Ferrer said Barbie's biggest challenge is changing the perception of the brand because not everyone is totally on board.
"We're reconnecting to society," she explained, "We've changed a lot of things. We went into body diversity and now our role-model work is helping to change brand perception. The collaboration with ESA is a good way to improve our perception, to make people understand that Barbie is a doll that can help a lot of kids."
Cue the ‘Barbie Dream Gap Project’ - an on-going initiative that Barbie kicked off this year. Ferrer said the project stems from research that identified that many girls, starting at age five, begin to develop limiting self-beliefs that lead them to doubt their full potential – the 'Dream Gap.'
The project aims to close the gap by providing young girl with resources and support so they continue believing they can be anything.
As part of the 'Dream Gap' project, Barbie has made a brand commitment to highlight role models that show young girls they can do anything.
Alongside Samantha Cristoforetti, it's 'Sheroes' collection introduces women from all walks of life, including the activist and supermodel Adwoa Aboah, the professional tennis player Naomi Osaka and Gülse Birsel, a screenwriter and columnist from Turkey.
"The one-of-a-kind dolls honour women who have broken boundaries," Ferrer explained. "Worldwide we are celebrating different women with different careers - the right role models inspire girls."