British coronavirus vaccine developer Sarah Gilbert has many science accolades to her name but now shares an honour with Beyonce, Marilyn Monroe and Eleanor Roosevelt: a Barbie doll in her likeness.
Gilbert, a 59-year-old professor at Oxford University and co-developer of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, is one of six women in the COVID-19 fight who have new Barbies modelled after them.
Toymaker Mattel Inc is recognising them with a line of Barbie “role model” dolls.
Gilbert’s Barbie shares her long auburn hair and oversized black-rimmed glasses and wears a navy blue pantsuit and white blouse.
“It’s a very strange concept having a Barbie doll created in my likeness,” Gilbert said in an interview for Mattel.
“I hope it will be part of making it more normal for girls to think about careers in science.
“My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist.”
Among the honourees are emergency room nurse Amy O’Sullivan who treated the first COVID-19 patient at the Wycoff Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and Audrey Cruz, a front-line doctor in Las Vegas who fought discrimination, according to Mattel.
Other dolls include Chika Stacy Oriuwa, a Canadian psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto who battled systemic racism in healthcare, and Brazilian biomedical researcher Jaqueline Goes de Jesus, who led sequencing of the genome of a COVID-19 variant in Brazil, the company said.
Lastly, a doll honours Kirby White, an Australian doctor who pioneered a surgical gown that can be washed and reused by front-line workers during the pandemic.
Gilbert chose nonprofit organisation WISE (Women in Science & Engineering), dedicated to inspiring girls to consider a career in STEM, to receive a financial donation from the toymaker.
“Barbie recognises that all front-line workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened,” said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president of Barbie and dolls at Mattel.
“To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories and leveraging Barbie’s platform to inspire the next generation to take after these heroes and give back.
“Our hope is to nurture and ignite the imaginations of children playing out their own storyline as heroes.”