Several studies show that children’s toys influence their career choices. Everyone knows a child who is fascinated by Barbie dolls. Until a few years ago Barbie was a stereotype of perfection, but nowadays Mattel is promoting a realistic doll. The company has been producing dolls that reflect the world girls see around them. The Barbie Awards were created to encourage girls, from all over the world, to be what they want. Zita Martins, professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering (DEQ) at Técnico, was one of 10 Portuguese women awarded a 2018 Barbie Award for being an inspiration to future generations of girls. Professor Zita Martins’ story inspired a Barbie doll – Astrobiologist Barbie.
The Astrobiologist Barbie wears jeans, safety glasses, white coat and holds a Erlenmeyer flask. The hair and eye colours of the doll are very similar to professor Zita Martins. This year’s edition honoured nine other Portuguese women from the most diverse areas who were also considered an inspiration to future generations of girls. “It is interesting that the Astrobiologist Barbie can take off the white coat, safety glasses and Erlenmeyer flask, which means that after work scientist are just like everyone else”, she says.
Stressing the importance and gratitude of being honoured, the professor at DEQ says that ” it’s always with great pleasure that I receive an award, because it’s the recognition of my work. In this case it challenges stereotypes and promotes gender equality”. Passionate about her profession and committed to everything she does, professor Zita Martins is aware that this award brings with it bigger responsibilities: “to work even more on all these issues”. “I think I was an inspiration because I show the girls and boys what scientists do in their daily life and that scientists can be both men and women. ”
In her childhood, professor Zita Martins, “didn’t like any kind of dolls, including Barbies,” she shares. “Fortunately society has evolved since then, and so did the dolls and the majority of toys” comments the professor at DEQ. Nowadays the most famous dolls in the world represent real women from the most diverse professions, including Barbie Robotics Engineer Doll, Barbie Katherine Johnson doll – Mathematician and Physician who worked at NASA, and Barbie Amelia Earhart doll – pioneer in the field of aviation . “It is fundamental that the family and the school community support girls and boys and show them the role that women play in society”, says Professor Zita Martins.