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Barbie teams with Virgin Atlantic to encourage girls into careers in aviation

Mattel and Barbie UK have teamed up with the talents at Virgin Atlantic to showcase to and encourage girls into the variety of careers within STEM and aviation through the launch of three one-of-a-kind dolls: pilot, engineer and cabin crew.

Current statistics from the Women’s Engineering Society indicate that only 12 per cent of the UK engineering workforce is female, and similar statistics show that only 4.3 per cent of UK pilots are women, with the aviation sector in particular dominated by men.

Originally created to show girls that women have choices, Barbie has had over 200 careers throughout her history, and in the brands 60th year, three Virgin Atlantic careers join the ranks to inspire girls to believe anything is possible.

According to research carried out by Mattel, the toymaker has identified that starting at age five, many girls begin to develop limiting self-beliefs and doubt their full potential – this is called the Dream Gap. Barbie recently launched the Dream Gap Project to promote an alternative with an on-going initiative with the goal of levelling the playing field for girls globally.

Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic, in an effort to have more female representation across the board and highlight its career opportunities for women, recruited the fashion doll in order to spotlight a variety of careers to a younger generation of girls.

The partnership between Virgin Atlantic and Barbie marks the start of a wider initiative at the airline to encourage more women into STEM and aviation careers.  Working with its charity partner, WE, the Passport for Change programme aims to inspire young people to engage with STEM subjects and consider a future in aviation.

The dolls have been designed in the likeness of real Virgin Atlantic uniforms and show ethnic and body diversity, reflecting the body types available in the Barbie line. The pilot doll has articulated ankles and flat shoes and wears a pilot’s uniform complete with wings and badge.

The engineer doll wears flat safety boots, an access lanyard and noise cancelling headphones. The cabin crew doll pays homage to the iconic red Virgin Atlantic Vivienne Westwood uniform.

Nikki Humphrey, SVP people at Virgin Atlantic, commented: “We know that women are currently underrepresented across a number of careers within aviation. We also know we can’t change this position overnight. Therefore it’s imperative we play the long-game, highlighting to primary aged children that any job role is open and our partnership with Barbie marks another milestone in our commitment this. 

“It’s astounding that girls start believing they can’t follow a certain career path from as young as five and it’s our ambition we close this dream gap. By working with Barbie, it allows us to speak directly to our future generation of aviation workers, whether they aspire to be cabin crew, engineers or pilots.”

Dawn Childs, president of the Women’s Engineering Society, added: “The fact that so many young girls narrow their career prospects from an early age by believing that some roles and jobs simply are not for them is a tragedy. This is not just a tragedy for them but it denies businesses 50 per cent of the potential future talent pool at a time when the engineering skills gap is widening and unsustainable.

“This fabulous initiative will help to normalise seeing women in these vital roles and help them to aim high in their future career aspirations.”

Recently, the airline was a founding member of Women in Aviation and Aerospace in 2018 as well as a signatory of the Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure charter. Virgin Atlantic has also developed a Springboard Network which aims to help women in junior roles develop clear career pathways to become senior leaders.

Later in the year, Pilot and Crew dolls will be sold on-board and in key retail partners to further celebrate the partnership, with Engineer dolls available in 2020.

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