Research shows that gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests over the longterm. The average age that girls stop thinking they can be and do anything is six years old. That’s when girls become less likely than boys to see themselves as “really, really smart.”

This phenomenon is called the ‘Dream Gap’ and it stands between every girl and her full potential. It runs the gamut for girls and women around the world–from being unable to identify as very intelligent to being far less likely to picture their future selves as scientists, engineers or working in any STEM career role — even when girls outperform boys in math and science.

The erosion of girls’ confidence and self-esteem is well underway at age six, and they cannot imagine the possibility of anything else. Dreaming is the key to a future in which more than 80% of jobs are STEM-related.

The Dream Gap not only robs girls of their ability to value themselves but it takes away their ability to imagine new possibilities, explore new worlds and think new thoughts, which is what makes innovation and new breakthroughs possible.

How do we keep our girls dreaming? We keep them playing according to Mattel, the maker of Barbie.

The richest forms of play can help girls imagine themselves as athletes, scientists, coders, engineers, mathematicians or anything.

For nearly 60 years, Barbie has led girls on a path to self-discovery and helped them to imagine the possibilities. This type of play has the power to close the Dream Gap.

At Play Like a Girl, we’re seizing this opportunity to harness the natural properties of sport (or active play) to propel young women into male-dominated careers–especially at the intersection of STEM and sports.

We envision a world where all girls have the confidence and opportunity to become unstoppable women. Let’s inspire the next generation by showing them that they can be and do anything they can imagine.