You can't be what you can't see. It's a simple concept, one that was a favorite of Marie Wilson, founder and president emeritus of the now-shuttered White House Project, which inspired two women to realize how important it is for young girls to see the range of things they can aspire to be.
If girls grow up surrounded by seemingly vain, tiny-waisted and large-breasted figures all through childhood, those depictions may color their adult aspirations. Barbie's makers realize this too, and that's perhaps the reason behind their latest professional Barbie stunt — she's on LinkedIn. But Mattel isn't the only toymaker attempting to dream up worthwhile alternatives for how kids spend their playtime.
The most recent one, from Supriya Hobbs and Janna Eaves, both 21, seems like it's going to stick out. When Hobbs and Eaves met at engineering program at the University of Illinois, they looked around their class and wondered, "Where are all the women?" It's a legitimate question, given the lack of women in STEM; indeed, women make less than 28% of science and engineering workforce. Hobbs and Eaves have created a line of dolls they hope will inspire girls to dream big, even when they're just playing.
Image Credit: Indiegogo
Hobbs and Eaves' Miss Possible series of dolls are modeled after real women who've had path-breaking success in science, technology, space and information technology. Their product is designed to be more than a toy, however. Their first doll will be the childhood version of Marie Curie, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist and physicist best known for her discoveries in radioactivity. An accompanying app tells girls about Curie's life and lets them do experiments and activities like making a compass, initiating a chemical reaction with simple household things like glue and magnets.
"We want to increase the number of people who change the world, and we think there are a lot of girls with the potential to do that," Hobbs and Eaves write on their Indiegogo page, where they are crowdfunding for the product. "We are going to help them make that jump from potential to reality!"
Their plan for the second doll is Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female aviator and first American to hold an international pilot's license while the third woman in the line-up is based off Ada Lovelace, often referred to as the prophet of the computer age.
Image Credit: Indiegogo
"There's something really powerful of having a real person behind it," Hobbs told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
And that's one of the biggest challenges of Barbie, the most iconic of girls' toys — she isn't remotely real. Even though Barbie has launched "careers" as everything from a dentist to a photographer to a Spanish teacher to an aerobic instructor, she still carries with her the air of objectification, with a whiff of glass ceiling.
Hobbs and Eaves say they have researched and carefully selected a factory in China to produce their dolls, which they plan to sell for $45 a piece. They have raised more than $18,000 on Indiegogo but are hoping for $75,000 in total, the minimum amount needed to fund the factory's minimum order of 5,000 dolls.
Both of Hobbs' parents are chemists, and Eaves' are engineers. They realize the importance of having a role model who they can look up to when they want to believe that anything is possible. They hope that these dolls can do the same for future generation of strong and empowered women.