British-Nigerian scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock helped launch the James Webb Space Telescope and heads the University of Leicester in the UK. She now has a Barbie in her likeness and welcomes this initiative from Mattel to promote other models and other professional trajectories.
It’s a rather special Barbie that comes out on Tuesday, March 8, for International Women’s Day. It bears the image of the British scientist Margaret Aderin-Pocock, who would never have imagined holding it in her hands. This Barbie is far from the platinum blond caricature that we have in mind when we think of Barbie. Maggie Aderin-Pocock is Anglo-Nigerian, she is a 54-year-old black woman with a size more generous than that, unreally thin, of Barbie. And above all, she is an engineer in space science. A gold medalist in physics, she contributed to the launch of the James Webb telescope a year ago and has just been appointed head of the University of Leicester. A life far removed from the little convertible ride with Ken.
This is precisely why Mattel decided to create a Barbie in the image of Maggie Aderin-Pocock, to promote another model, with a particularly successful effect: the doll wears a blue dress covered with stars, she has long black and purple braids, like Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and like her, she has her little telescope. “It’s funny to me, she told the BBC, because when I was little, Barbie didn’t look like me at all, so to see me, me, today represented in Barbie, it’s completely crazy, it is an honor, it is a kind of consecration.”
Only 26% of Women in Scientific Professions in England
For Maggie Aderin-Pocock, this Barbie is not just a toy: it allows, when you are a child and you are looking for yourself, to be able to identify yourself, to project yourself, to know that a woman with a telescope does exist. and that this could possibly be a way forward. A message that the researcher has been working to convey for years already. Every month she presents an astronomy program on the BBC, but above all she goes around schools, colleges, high schools, to meet the students, answer questions, tell her story, that of a little girl who from her young age looked up to the sky.
Space travel fascinated her and it was this motivation that led her to pursue studies in science and obtain two doctorates. She had no model, no particular figure, hence the importance of this doll: the figures show it, there are very few Maggie Aderin-Pococks in the labs. In the UK, only 26% of scientists are women. Here in France, they represent only 17% of students in maths and engineering studies.
This article is originally published on francetvinfo.fr