Barbie's new campaign in honour of World Space Week is encouraging more girls into the coolest career around.
The STEM industries offer some of the most dynamic, forward-looking and well-paid job opportunities there are. So why are there still so few women choosing to embark on careers in the field?
It's a question we've long been working to answer, and a problem we've long been working to rectify here at Marie Claire UK – from our #WomenWhoWin Instagram series, in which we hear from the incredible women that are making waves in their chosen fields, to our Women in Tech Week campaign, which shone a spotlight on the brilliant women changing the face of the male-dominated tech industry for good.
So imagine our excitement when we heard that the timely theme of this year's World Space Week is 'Women in Space'.
Kicking off today, the international celebration of science and technology, "and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition", is inspiring the next generation and celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of women to the space sector. And, more excitingly still, it's found itself a powerful ally in one of the world's most iconic figures.
Enter stage right: Barbie.
The first Barbie Astronaut doll walked on the moon before man did
Yes, this World Space Week, Barbie is partnering with the European Space Agency (ESA) and its only active European female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, to celebrate WSW, and encourage girls everywhere to see the STEM field as a viable career option.
In keeping with the brand's long-held tradition of honouring iconic female figures with a one-of-a-kind doll to inspire the next generation (previous Barbie role models have included everyone from boxer Nicola Adams, to Marie Claire Future Shaper Clara Amfo), Barbie has created a Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie doll, with part of the proceeds going to Women In Aerospace and its Barbie Bursary, which will help fund a PhD student.
Cristoforetti, who is an aviator, engineer and astronaut from Italy, is currently in training ahead of her next mission to the International Space Station in April 2022 – during which, on a six-month tour of duty, she will take on the role of Commander.
It's appropriate, then, that in honour of Cristoforetti and WSW, Barbie just went zero-gravity: departing from the ESA base in Germany, and travelling on a zero-gravity flight, modelling the preparation and experience of a real-life astronaut. (Yes, really.)
This certainly isn't the iconic doll's first venture into space, though – as the first Barbie Astronaut doll actually walked on the moon before man did, launching into space in 1965. A true career polymath, Barbie has been an Astrophysicist, Space Scientist and an Astronaut in her time, and the brand has created dolls in the likeness of real-life role models including legendary female astronauts Sally Ride from the USA, Anna Kikina from Russia, and of course, ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti.
A third of parents did not believe there are enough positive role models in STEM-related fields for girls
"Sometimes little things can plant the seeds of great dreams," says Cristoforetti of seeing herself in Barbie form. "Who knows? Maybe the fun images of my doll floating in weightlessness will spark children’s imagination and lead them to consider a career in STEM."
Barbie's partnership with ESA was forged after research, conducted in the UK in 2019, revealed that four out of ten parents believed they may be holding their daughter back from entering or learning about a STEM career due to their own lack of wisdom in the area. A third, meanwhile, did not believe there are enough positive role models in space and STEM-related fields for girls, and 70 per cent agreed that achievements of females in space needed to be given more of an equal footing to those of their male counterparts.
"With STEM careers still underrepresented by women, Barbie is using its platform this World Space Week to show girls exciting and diverse roles and activity in space for them to explore their limitless potential," says Isabel Ferrer, Barbie Marketing Director EMEA.
The ESA x Barbie Bursary will be given to an individual conducting an outreach project aimed to inspire younger generations of girls and women to pursue a career in STEM. Academic and non-academic outreach projects are eligible for submission, provided they will be conducted in Europe and can be completed within 12 months.
Pretty neat, right?
Because when it comes to women's careers, we could all do with taking a few notes from Barbie, who's believed all along that the possibilities should be as limitless as the stars.
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Kate McCusker is a freelance writer at Marie Claire UK, having joined the team in 2019. She studied fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins, and her byline has also appeared in Dezeen, British Vogue, The Times and woman&home. In no particular order, her big loves are: design, good fiction, bad reality shows and the risible interiors of celebrity houses.
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