Barbie has come a long way from its image of yesteryear. Once seen as a beloved childhood toy, this new iteration of the iconic doll is much more than that.

On Tuesday Mattel, Inc. announced Barbie is partnering with entrepreneurs and role models to inspire the next generation of leaders and dreamers in time for International Women’s Day. “Through a multi-faceted campaign to increase access to female role models, support female entrepreneurs, and partner with likeminded global programs, Barbie is committed to help build the confidence and reinforce the limitless potential of girls everywhere,” stated a release shared with EBONY.

Among the role models in the collection is American television producer Shonda Rhimes. Known for her creative genius on such shows as Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and Netflix’s breakout series Bridgerton, Rhymes has exemplified for both women and girls, what it means to follow your passion and carve out your own lane.

“We know that children are inspired by what they see around them, which is why it’s so important for young girls to see themselves reflected in role models who’ve daringly pushed past roadblocks and overcome the Dream Gap to become the brave women they are today,” says Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls, Mattel. 

Across the globe, women still struggle to rise to leadership roles, despite being both educated and qualified. Mattel conducted a study in partnership with NYU’s Cognitive Development Lab that found girls aged 5-10 are less likely to raise their hand for leadership positions, such as stepping up to be in charge of a group activity. The research also suggested that young girls perceive social backlash from volunteering to take on more responsibility. However, attitudes shifted when exposed to female role models. This latest finding expands on "Dream Gap" research that has determined something instinctually happens to girls starting at age five, where they start doubting themselves and experiencing a diminished confidence in their competence.

Barbie Dream Gap Project, launched in 2018, is a global initiative that is aiming to create awareness around powerful role models. In recent years the company has come out with an Ida B. Wells doll, and a Naomi Osaka Barbie, and ahead of the 2020 election released a collection to inspire young girls to become a part of the political process.

Images: courtesy of Barbie.