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Mattel's Barbie Turns Women Of Science Including A COVID Vaccine Developer Into Dolls

Mattel Inc.
New Barbies honor six women in health care, including Sarah Gilbert, the co-developer of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19.

British vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert now has a new accolade: It's a one-of-a-kind Barbie doll made in her image.

The Oxford University professor led the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Last month she was given a damehood and now she shares her hairstyle, professional wardrobe and dark-rimmed glasses with Mattel Inc's new doll.

Gilbert told The Guardian she first found Mattel's recognition "very strange" but hopes it inspires other young women around the world to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers (STEM).

"I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realize how vital careers in science are to help the world around us," she said. "My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist."

Six women are being honored with Barbies

Gilbert is one of the six women Mattel Inc has recognized as role models in the fight against COVID-19. According to the toymaker, the five other honorees include: U.S. 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 gown developer Kirby White.

"Barbie recognizes 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..." and added that she hopes the new launch "inspires the next generation to take after these heroes."

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine co-developer has been producing and testing vaccines for over a decade, according to her Oxford University profile. And just last month, the now widely available vaccine set a distribution milestone of 1 billion doses.

As of this year, only 35% of STEM students are women, according to STEM Women, a United Kingdom organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in the STEM workforce.

Xcaret Nuñez is an intern with NPR's News Desk.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.