Toymaker Mattel (MAT 0.45%) has flipped the script, so to speak, on criticism that its Barbie brand of dolls has portrayed women in a way that devalues them.

On Tuesday, the company unveiled a new line of Barbie doll versions of some of the world's most impressive female athletes, meant to encourage and empower girls. Among the athletes being portrayed in 11.5 inch form are UK sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, French soccer team captain Amandine Henry, Ukrainian fencing champion Olga Kharlan, and others.

Various Barbie doll versions of real life women heroes

Image Source: Mattel.

The toys are part of Mattel's Barbie Dream Gap Project, which is aimed at combating societal assumptions that girls may be less capable than boys. Every year the company makes a monetary donation to organizations that encourage and empower girls. Mattel also collects crowdsourced donations to pass along to these groups, which in the past have included Step Up and She's the First. 

The dolls -- part of the brand's so-called "Shero" campaign -- are being revealed just before International Women's Day, which is Sunday, March 8, and is meant to celebrate women's achievements and to raise awareness of the fight for full equality.

Unfortunately, the specially made dolls won't be commercially available. Mattel does sell Barbie versions of real life female heroes though, as part of its Inspiring Women line. Among the world-changing women featured within this toy line are tennis star Billie Jean King, civil rights icon Rosa Parks, and astronaut Sally Ride.