Barbie told to boost science credentials – including her poor PPE | Science & Tech News

Dec 19, 2023 | Entertainment, News

Barbie may know what it takes to make a smash hit film, but a study says she’s got some catching up to do to in the world of science and medicine.

The fashion doll has been everything from a doctor to a dentist since debuting in 1959, including a British scientist who worked on the largest space telescope ever made, and another who helped develop a COVID vaccine.

But a UK study says toy maker Mattel has left its Barbies ill-equipped to properly succeed.

Not only are these medics suffering a PPE shortage, but some are going to work with loose hair and heels on.

The findings come from the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal, for which researcher Katherine Klamer analysed 92 Barbie career dolls.

There were 53 doctors, 15 nurses, 11 dentists, 10 scientists, two science educators, and a paramedic.

Careers were identified by analysing clothing like lab coats, accessories such as microscopes, and packaging.

While 98% of doctor Barbies had stethoscopes, only 4% had face masks and none had disposable gloves.

More than two-thirds of the overall Barbies wore loose hair, and more than half wore high-heeled shoes, even in settings where this would be discouraged or prohibited for safety reasons.

Of the 12 scientist Barbies, none met all PPE requirements related to hair and clothing.

Ms Klamer also found a lack of specialisms represented.

All filled generic roles within their fields, other than three ophthalmologists among the doctors.

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Ms Klamer’s work has been backed by surgeons at Harvard Medical School.

Writing in support of the study, they said female medical students are disproportionately discouraged from pursuing surgical careers.

A greater range of Barbies could help girls fight back against sexist career stereotypes and advice, they said.

“We encourage and would welcome the creation of a surgeon Barbie, and would be happy to advise Mattel on the correct accompanying equipment and PPE to make sure the doll is realistic and fun,” they added.

“With an expanded line, Barbies can be inspirational to young girls’ views of surgeons and scientists, rather than allowing these careers to be aspirational.”

Sky News has contacted Mattel for comment.

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