Barbie made in likeness of UK scientist for promoting Stem subjects to girls

The announcement coincides with both International Women's Day and British Science Week

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British scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock has been honoured with a Barbie doll in her image to celebrate International Women's Day and British Science Week.

Mattel, the toy company that created the doll, has recognised Dr Aderin-Pocock as a “Barbie Role Model” for her contributions in making space and science accessible to girls. The doll, in a starry dress and equipped with a telescope accessory, pays homage to Dr Aderin-Pocock's work with the James Webb Space Telescope.

Dr Aderin-Pocock, known for her appearances on BBC One's The Sky At Night, said she hoped the doll would encourage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) fields, and to see these subjects as equally important for everyone.

As a black woman in science, Dr Aderin-Pocock said she aims to break down stereotypes and inspire the next generation of scientists, especially girls. Mattel is also donating Dr Aderin-Pocock's book, Am I Made Of Stardust?, to schools across the UK through partner charity Inspiring Girls.

Dr Aderin-Pocock expressed her appreciation for the honour, saying that as a child she had played with Barbies that did not look like her. She hopes her Barbie doll will inspire young girls, especially those from underrepresented groups, to pursue their dreams and strive for success.

She said: “I want to inspire the next generation of scientists, and especially girls, and let them know that Stem is for them”.

“These subjects are just too important to be left to the guys because, through science, you can literally change the world. I hope my doll will remind girls that, when you reach for the stars, anything is possible.”

Who is Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock?

Dr Aderin-Pocock is a British scientist and science communicator who is best known for presenting the BBC One programme “The Sky at Night.”

She was born in 1968 in London to Nigerian parents and grew up in both the UK and Nigeria.

Dr Aderin-Pocock studied physics and earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London.

She has worked on various space projects, including designing a spectrograph for the Gemini telescope, and is an advocate for increasing diversity in Stem fields.

She said: “As a black woman, I've found that I don't always fit some people's perception of a scientist. We do often have these stereotypical images of what people do, and I like to smash those stereotypes whenever I get the opportunity”.

Encouraging girls to consider STEM careers

Mattel's Barbie Career range will also include a marine biologist doll later this year, joining Stem figures such as a doctor, a vet, a scientist and an astronaut. The company said it recognises that globally, Stem fields are underrepresented by women, and hopes that its products will encourage girls to consider those careers.

Marketing director at Mattel UK Kelly Philp said: “We know that, globally, Stem is a field widely recognised as underrepresenting women, so, as a brand, Barbie is committed to showing girls more Stem careers.”

The Barbie doll is part of a larger campaign to recognise women who are “trailblazers” in their fields, including Susan Wojcicki, the chief executive of YouTube, and Prof Antje Boetius, a German marine researcher and microbiologist. While Dr Aderin-Pocock's doll is not available for sale, Mattel said it wanted to recognise her as her positive role model for girls and her contributions to science.

Updated: March 07, 2023, 12:01 AM