The automotive industry has been largely dominated by men, but that’s changing as women have been making significant impacts on design and engineering. Mercedes wants this trend to continue so they’ve come up with a unique way to inspire the “next generation of female trailblazers.”
As part of the effort, the automaker has teamed up with Mattel and the Dream Gap Foundation to give thousands of girls a Matchbox die-cast replica of the Mercedes 220SE that Ewy Rosqvist drove to victory in the 1962 Argentinian Grand Prix.
Rosqvist’s story is interesting as she was dismissed by nearly everyone. They reportedly told her should couldn’t finish the race, let alone win it.
However, they were proven wrong as she finished the race three hours ahead of the competition. Rosqvist also won all six stages of the race and set a new average speed record of 78 mph (126 km/h).
Mercedes wants Rosqvist’s story to resonate with a new generation of women so the company released a short film highlighting her victory as part of International Women’s History Month in March.
You might be wondering what all this has to do with toy cars. The answer is simple as Mercedes says “from a surprisingly young age, gender associations begin to shape our choices.”
The company demonstrated this in a short video where first grade girls were asked to select a toy to play with. They were given a number of different options, but they all selected traditional ‘girl toys’ such a unicorn, a doll, a princess and a tea set. When asked why they didn’t choose the car, many of them dismissed the replica as a ‘boy’s toy.’
The girls were then shown the video featuring Rosqvist. After watching the clip, they no longer considered the car a ‘boy’s toy’ and started playing with it. Mercedes says this experiment “mirrors research suggesting that when young girls are exposed to strong positive messages about their gender, it helps to reduce the impact of stereotypes.”
According to Mercedes-Benz USA general manager of marketing services, Mark Aikman, “Through Ewy’s story, we saw an opportunity to inspire young girls to ‘play outside the box’ and imagine all the different opportunities open to them without the restrictions of traditional stereotypes.” He went on to describe the program as a “tangible reminder for girls that there are no restrictions on their tomorrow.”
While Mercedes and Mattel will be giving away thousands of replicas, they will also be available to purchase at stores next year. Proceeds from the sale of the replica will be used to fund other cars which aim to inspire the next generation of women.