Looking The Part vs Learning The Skills

Apologies for two Barbie related posts in a row, but there’s something about this positioning of Barbie as career role model that really interests me…

Since my last post, it has come to my attention that Barbie has yet another career move on the cards for this year; She’s going to be a Computer Engineer! Even though Barbie is seriously rocking the geek chic glasses (of course!) and the pink tech accessories (naturally!) some are seeing this as a rather unusual choice for our plastic friend.

So, why a computer engineer? Well, like the role of news anchor, this job was one voted for by the good, honest internet-using public. Did I say ‘good’ and ‘honest’? I meant to say cheat-savvy and anarchically motivated, since it was (apparently) the cheeky community at 4chan who rigged the vote and gave old Barb her new role.

Mattel must have balked a tad at this unexpected outcome (which would explain why they moved this job title to the less fan-fare-able position of job number 126, and called it the winner of the ‘Popular Vote’, rather than touting as the role that Barbie fan-girls themselves had voted for) but, admirably, Mattel stepped up to the plate and gave us a Computer Engineer Barbie with bells on. They even consulted the society of women engineers and the national academy of engineering to ensure that Barbie had everything she needed to do the job.

It’s great news in many ways – As Elizabeth Croft, associate head of engineering at the University of British Columbia, says;

I don’t see the downside to this. Barbie’s been a doctor and a lawyer. It’s only natural that she should also be an engineer

…and Nora Lin, President of the Society of Women Engineers, points out;

All the girls who imagine their futures through Barbie will learn that engineers — like girls — are free to explore infinite possibilities, limited only by their imagination. As a computer engineer, Barbie will show girls that women can turn their ideas into realities that have a direct and positive impact on people’s everyday lives in this exciting and rewarding career.

Still, whilst it’s brilliant and great and amazing and fab that such a modern job role – which desperately needs more women to work within it – is now included in the play-time opportunities for young girls, I can’t help but be reminded of this cartoon from SMBC Comics. Is dressing Barbie up as an engineer enough to move girls into engineering?

By: Sarah Barnes, 29.05.2010 | Comments (2)
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