Barbie doll of Oxford Covid vaccinologist created to promote women in STEM

  • Photo: (c) Andy Paradise/Rex/Shutterstock

    Mattel, the company that manufactures Barbie, has created a new doll of Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, the British female scientist that designed the Oxford coronavirus vaccine.

    “I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realise how vital careers in science are to help the world around us,” said Dame Sarah.

    "My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist."

    The trailblazing researcher was recognised with a damehood in the Queen's Birthday Honours just this year as well and received a standing ovation at Wimbledon because of her contributions to fighting the Covid-19 virus.

    She began designing a coronavirus vaccine - now known as the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab - in early 2020 when Covid first emerged in China, and it is now the most widely used around the world, with doses sent to more than 170 countries.

    Dame Sarah's Barbie is one of six to honour women working in STEM.

    (c) Mattel

    The others include US health care workers Dr Audrey Sue Cruz and emergency room nurse Amy O'Sullivan, Canadian doctor and advocate against systemic racism in health care, Chicka Stacy Oriuwa, Brazilian biomedical researcher Dr Jaqueline Goes de Jesus and Australian doctor and protective reusable gown co-creator, Kirby White.

    "Barbie recognises that all frontline workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened," said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel.

    "To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories."

    Originally launched as a thin, white, blonde and blue-eyed doll in 1959, Barbies are now offered in a range of skin tones and sizes, and include figures themed around careers such as firefighters, doctors and astronauts.

    Celebrities and inspirational figures that have also had Barbie dolls created in their likenesses include actor Johnny Depp, pop stars like David Bowie, Jennifer Lopez and Cher, and athletes such as tennis star Naomi Osaka and Team GB Olympian runner Dina Asher-Smith.

    In 2017, the first hijab-wearing Barbie was launched to honour an American fencer who became the first US woman to wear the Islamic headscarf while competing at the Olympics. 

    American civil rights pioneer, Rosa Parks was also made into a doll in 2019, as was Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo, who - known for fighting racial injustice and promoting women's rights - unveiled the Barbie doll made in her likeness earlier this year.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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