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Mattel helps close the ‘dream gap’ for AAPI girls

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published May 26, 2021 6:57 pm

For the past few years, Mattel, the maker of beloved Barbie, has been committed to empower girls around the world through its toys that not just promote inclusivity but also inspire girls around the world that they can be anything beyond the cookie-cutter roles that society imposes on women.

However, the brand is aware that there are hurdles to clear in order for more girls to believe that there are endless possibilities for them out there.

According to a study by the New York University, as young as six years old, some girls stop believing that they are smart and capable as boys. Research also shows that starting at the age of five, some girls stop believing they can be anything. These limiting beliefs and issue are called the “dream gap.”

To bridge the gap, Mattel’s Barbie launched the Dream Gap Project in 2018, a global initiative that aims to give girls the resources and support they need to believe that they can be anything.

However, the brand is aware that the dream gap is an issue about race as much as it is about gender.

So in honor of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, the Barbie Dream Gap Project is making a donation to AAPI girls through a partnership with AAPI Women Lead organization.

“We know that the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) girls face additional barriers to overcome beyond gender stereotypes,” Mattel said in a statement.

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The brand chose the AAPI Women Lead, an intergenerational organization that strengthens the platforms of AAPI communities in the US through the leadership of women and girls.

Since 2018, The Dream Gap Program has supported like-minded organizations that share the same mission. In 2019, the program distributed $250,000 to charities like She’s the First, She Should Run, and Step Up to help change the lives of girls around the world. To date, the program has helped over 7,000 girls worldwide.

Among the things that the program does to close the gap is highlighting Barbie’s 10 role models that are being rolled out each year. This way, girls are introduced to women from different walks of life to show the possibilities for them.

This year’s role models who have Barbie dolls in their likeness include Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, fashion designer Karen Walker from New Zealand, Polish hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, professional skateboarder Sky Brown and Para-Badminton world champion Manashi Joshi from India.

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For a few years, Mattel has been pushing for inclusivity in its line of Barbies.

In 2019, it introduced gender-neutral dolls called “Creatable World” dolls, which were available in different skin tones, hair types and several wardrobe options that allowed kids to style the doll however they wanted, “with short or long hair, or in a skirt, pants or both.”

Mattel also released last year a line of Barbie dolls with no hair, prosthetic limb and vitiligo (a disease that causes loss of skin color in patches). The move, according to a New York Times report, is a way for the company to “shift away from Barbie’s image as the impossibly thin blonde icon blamed for distorting young children’s idea of beauty, skin tone and body shape.”

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