|Mattel, the maker of Barbie, has modernised the iconic doll in recent years, and is now embarking on a project to "close the dream gap". — AFP Photo
LOS ANGELES — Over the years, Barbie has taken on many roles: beach beauty, scientist, even president of the United States. And now, she will work to help young girls close the so-called "Dream Gap."
The doll’s maker Mattel on Tuesday announced a sweeping campaign in collaboration with university researchers to teach young girls to believe in themselves, and not to buy into sexist gender stereotypes.
"Research has identified that starting at age five, many girls are less likely than boys to view their own gender as smart and begin to lose confidence in their own competence," Mattel said in a statement.
The company will fund research and work on "rallying a community around supporting girls" through its multi-year Dream Gap Project.
Mattel unveiled a new ad featuring young girls holding placards that read "Close the Dream Gap" and ties into Barbie’s "You Can Be Anything" campaign.
The brand is working with researchers at New York University, and hopes to extend that initiative in other partnerships around the world.
It also will highlight "at least 10 empowering female role models each year globally."
Though Barbie is often criticised for perpetuating negative stereotypes with her impossibly lean physique, the brand has worked hard in recent years to portray a modern image.
In early 2016, the California-based company launched Barbie versions in three different body shapes – tall, petite and curvy – and in seven different skin tones.
This year’s featured career is robotics engineer. Another new line showcased "Inspiring Women" such as aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and black NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.
"Since 1959, Barbie has inspired the limitless potential in every girl," said Lisa McKnight, general manager and senior vice president for Barbie at Mattel.
"We believe that empowering them at a young age is a catalyst to unlocking their full potential."
In July, Mattel announced that it was cutting 2,200 jobs after reporting another steep quarterly loss, despite rising Barbie sales.
The company, which also produces Matchbox cars and Fisher-Price educational toys, has faced tough competition from video game makers and other electronic toys. — AFP