Most of us have never heard of Ewy Rosqvist, but Mercedes-Benz and Mattel are trying to change that. Rosqvist is a female Swedish car racing champion who made history in 1962 for being the first woman to enter and win the Argentinian Grand Prix, one of the toughest races in the world. Mercedes and Mattel want little girls to know that they can be race car drivers too, just like Rosqvist.
It’s all part of the “No Limits” program created by Mercedes-Benz in partnership with Mattel and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), where they’re teaching girls that they can do anything and be anything. In a press release, the companies describe, “Through February 2020, girls across the U.S., through more than 100 organizations, will engineer toy racetracks, design cars, engage with female role models and attend STEM workshops through programs designed to expand how they see their future.”
As a takeaway gift, 50,000 girls will receive a toy replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE that Rosqvist used to win the Grand Prix. The toy itself designed to remind girls of Rosqvist’s feat, and to encourage the girls that they can also forge new paths for women.
Toy cars are typically not a go-to toy for young girls. Earlier this year, Mercedes Benz released a video where young girls were asked to choose from a selection of toys, including the replica toy car. None of the girls chose the toy car. After being shown a video, narrated by Rozqvist, on the story surrounding her stunning win, the girls developed a new attitude regarding the car they previously identified as just “for boys.” Last month, Digital Girl, Inc., a Brooklyn-based non-profit dedicated to empowering the underserved youth of New York City, repeated the test and obtained similarly positive results. Not exactly scientific methodology, but inspiring nonetheless.
And Rosqvist’s story can’t help but be inspiring. After watching her husband race for years, Rosqvist decided she would enter the three-day Argentinian Grand Prix herself. The course has very rough terrain, and many racers don’t even finish. “They said I could never finish,” Rosqvist reports, “so I finished first.” Not only did she finish first, but she was the first person to win every stage of the race, set a new speed record and beat the previous champion by over three hours.
Research shows that female role models are important part of inspiring girls to pursue STEM fields, but not just any role models will do. There is some evidence that if a STEM role model is too feminine, it can have the opposite effect, actually turning girls away from pursuing STEM fields. Rosqvist certainly fits the bill here, not particularly masculine or feminine, just strong and confident.
The Rosqvist Matchbox toy car replica will also be sold in stores nationwide beginning in December. A toy car for young girls that’s not even pink, let’s hope it inspires a new generation of Ewy Rosqvists.