“Purpose in practice” at Mattel with the Dream Gap Project

Mattel’s Richard Dickson describes Barbie’s new empowerment initiative, part of the company’s wider mission to positively impact the world through play.

How many companies have the power to change the world – not simply because of the products they make but because of the people they inspire? Not many, and we are undeniably one of them.

Our creations meet kids in early childhood, a magical time when their worlds are full of possibility and the only barrier is their own imagination. But for all of the growth and opportunity our brands champion for children, culture sometimes pushes back ­­­ – especially at girls.

That’s why we at Mattel believe it’s so important that brands connecting with girls be more than simply trusted friends – they must be steadfast advocates for all she aspires to be. And I can think of no better example than Barbie. For nearly 60 years, Barbie has inspired the limitless potential in every girl – defying and even resetting cultural norms in order to tell girls: “You can be anything.”

But for all of the growth and opportunity our brands champion for children, culture sometimes pushes back ­­­ – especially at girls.

 -Richard Dickson

I’m incredibly proud of the work Barbie does every day to encourage girls, but there is more work to do, and today Barbie is stepping up in a whole new way. To mark the International Day of the Girl, Barbie is announcing the Dream Gap Project. This groundbreaking, long-term initiative will fund continuing research exploring why young girls often lose confidence in their own competence as well as efforts to help close this perceptual gap between girls and boys.

Barbie’s commitment will continue the important work of New York University associate professor of psychology Andrei Cimpian, who first reported on the emergence of a dream gap last year in an article penned with Lian Bian and Sarah-Jane Leslie for the journal Science. As I think you’ll see, there is a lot of opportunity to inspire positive change and, encouragingly, many ways for parents, teachers and influencers, like Barbie, to contribute in constructive ways.

Here on WHYPLAY we feature an exclusive interview with Cimpian, who talks about the importance of accessible role models and play as a context for fostering what he calls a “growth mindset,” one that allows girls to realize that their abilities are not finite; rather, they grow through effort.

We also know that educating kids and parents on the subject of the dream gap is critical, and Barbie’s YouTube channel – which includes her vlog and its over 5 million subscribers – is a powerful way to reach them. In her recent post on the dream gap, she speaks directly to girls about believing in themselves. On WHYPLAY we interview the vlog’s executive producer and writer, Julia Pistor, on the thinking behind Barbie’s persuasive, encouraging messages for girls.

Barbie’s commitment to the Dream Gap Project is just the latest example of purpose in practice at Mattel. For more on the Dream Gap Project, check out

I think you’ll be inspired.

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