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At first glance it may be challenging to see how the headline-grabbing Barbie movie can relate to clinical research. An all-star cast, with Barbie played by Margot Robbie, Ken by Ryan Gosling and a soundtrack featuring Nicki Minaj, it’s been hard to avoid all the publicity surrounding the cinema launch. Things have paid off for the marketing team, with the box office grossing $470 million globally in the first five days.

But, how exactly does this relate to clinical research?

The movie features Barbie as an ambitious, and intelligent woman who breaks gender stereotypes. Representation in Clinical Trials has long been a topic of discussion, until recently medicines were mainly tested on men, which had a detrimental effect on the health outcomes of women. Recent data shared by Harvard University, after examining 1,433 trials, discovered that on average 41.2% of participants were female. This demonstrates there is still progress to be made on the inclusion of women into trials. The Barbie movie could promote the discussion around ensuring clinical trials include diverse and representative participant populations, not just defaulting to white males.

after examining 1,433 trials, discovered that on average 41.2% of participants were female” – Harvard University

The positive and aspirational storyline portrays Barbie as a problem-solver when Barbie rights the male-female balance in Barbie land, reverting to female-led. This demonstration could encourage more females to take part in clinical trials as volunteers if they see characters portrayed as proactive problem-solvers through participation.

The movie also showcases Barbie as an empowered professional – with roles such as President, Diplomat and Doctor portrayed - thus inspiring more young women to pursue careers in science, medicine, and clinical research themselves one day.

“She's Barbie…and he's just Ken

Unlike many traditionally male dominated sectors such as Financial Services, or Energy, across the COG series we welcome many female senior executives to our events as both presenters and participants. This could suggest that in the clinical research world many women are represented at a senior level, however a recent study shows that women make up only 25% of senior leadership roles in the pharmaceutical space. Demonstrating much work to do to encourage more women into the sector.

Now I admit, I may be stretching it a bit with this article, but I do feel there is potential for a positive impact from the Barbie movie for women. If this, in some ways, leads to greater representation in clinical trials, promoting volunteer participation and an impact on younger viewers’ career choices, surely that is only a positive!


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