Barbie is an icon, but it’s not ‘one-size-fits all’ where the famous doll is concerned these days. Mattel, which manufactures Barbie, has just launched a special release doll modelled on the scientist who created the Oxford coronavirus vaccine: Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert. Now that’s iconic.

The traditional image you might have of Barbie may be the slim, white, blonde doll that first launched in 1959. But after a realisation that this version of the doll – and this version alone – is not a diverse enough representation of all the things it is to be a woman, the producers have made it their mission to shake things up.

Now, there’s an array of Barbie dolls on offer, ready to inspire a whole new generation of young people. The dolls feature different skin tones, cultures, hair styles, and also careers – including an astronaut, a doctor, an athlete and many more.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert's Barbie doll

Professor Sarah Gilbert’s mini-me (pictured above) is the latest in a series designed to honour women who have played their part in the pandemic around the world. Other dolls in the collection include:

  • Dr Kirby Whitby who co-founded ‘Gowns for Doctors’, which are re-usable after being washed.
  • Dr Audrey Cruz, a US doctor gathered other Asian-American frontline workers to fight racial bias and discrimination together.
  • A&E nurse Amy O’Sullivan, who treated the first COVID-19 patient at the Wycoff Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Dr Chika Stacy Oriuwa, a psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto, Canada, who has worked to eradicate against systemic racism in healthcare.
  • Biomedical researcher Dr Jacqueline Goes de Jesus, who led the sequencing of the genome of a COVID-19 variant in Brazil.
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Naturally, Professor Gilbert is absolutely delighted with the Barbie that’s been made in her honour, and hopes it will inspire more young girls to pursue careers in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and maths).

“I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realise 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.”

Professor Sarah Gilbert posing for Barbie

Professor Gilbert was instrumental in the design of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine that was one of the first to be approved, and is now the most widely used in the world to protect against coronavirus. She was awarded a damehood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year for her important work.


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