Barbie Aims to Break Stereotypes with Dream Gap Project

From Always’ “Like a Girl” to Brawny’s “Strength Has No Gender,” combatting gender bias has become a popular cause for brands. Indeed, campaigns like these have elevated the conversation around gender and even transformed perceptions. Now a nearly six-decade-old brand is putting its marketing force behind the cause to inspire girls and change the mindsets of parents.

Barbie Dream Gap.jpg

Recently, iconic doll brand Barbie uncovered a key insight: Starting as early as age 5, girls begin to develop limiting self-beliefs. That insight lead to the creation of the “Dream Gap Project,” launched in time for last week’s International Day of the Girl. To kick off the initiative, Barbie produced a video in which young girls share the stereotypes they face. In a poignant moment, one girl states, “Our parents are twice as likely to Google ‘Is my son gifted?’ than ‘Is my daughter gifted?’ That’s not cool.” The “Dream Gap” is a new and under-researched topic, according to the brand, so it is collaborating with Andrei Cimpian, associate professor at New York University, to fund a two-year post-doctoral fellowship to study this issue. Barbie is also pledging to close the gap by showing girls different role models and has committed to highlighting “at least 10 empowering female role models each year globally.” The “Dream Gap Project” website also lists actions parents can take, such as “challenging gender stereotypes” by limiting exposure to media that reinforces negative stereotypes and “stimulating their imaginations” by encouraging discovery through open-ended, unstructured play. This campaign is the latest from a brand working to modernize its products and stay relevant among a culture that continues to evolve. Barbie has endeavored to better embrace diversity and more recently introduced a “Career of the Year” Barbie – this year’s career was robotics engineer.

Four years ago, Cone declared 2014 the “Year of the Girl,” as we saw an influx of campaigns addressing gender bias among young females. Now, the issue has matured and brands are carving their niches within the space. For its part, Barbie is doubling-down on research around the “Dream Gap” while also using its global marketing power and household brand name to shine a light on an unrepresented issue.