Barbie gets her 'geek chic' on

Thanks to a campaign by female computer professionals, Barbie will be a computer engineer, reports the Wall Street Journal. “Please help us in getting Barbie to get her Geek on!” came the appeal from the blog GeekGirlCamp.

Mattel gave visitors to Barbie’s site a choice of careers for the job-hopping doll:  architect, anchorwoman, computer engineer, environmentalist or surgeon. More than 600,000 votes were cast during a four-week period this past winter.  Girls overwhelmingly wanted to see Barbie as an anchorwoman. But then female computer engineers “launched a viral campaign on the Internet to get out the vote and ensure Barbie would join their ranks,” the Journal reports.

The former fashion model, stewardess, dentist, astronaut, rock star and presidential candidate is going high-tech.

The result is a ponytailed doll in black leggings and a top decorated in binary code that spells Barbie, and lots of pink accessories—geek-chic glasses, Bluetooth headset and shoes.

Fewer women are majoring in computer science: In 2008, women received 18% of computer science degrees, down from 37% in 1985.  So women in the field are eager to encourage girls to consider computer careers.

After learning about the election from the National Academy of Engineers, Erin Fitzgerald, a science and technology fellow in the U.S. Department of Defense, helped get out the vote. “There is a perception that an interest in math, science and computers means being socially awkward and boring and sacrificing the opportunity to be creative and fun,” she says.

When Mattel asked women computer scientists how to design the new Barbie, they replied: ” ‘Make us look cool and hip.’ ‘Don’t put us in lab coats.’ ‘Don’t make us look like nerds.’ ”

The prototype was displayed at the International Toy Fair in New York Feb. 11.

Veronica Belmont, a San Francisco resident who has an online-technology video show and who says she snubbed Barbie as a girl in favor of toys she could take apart and reassemble, thought Barbie’s sparkly leggings and pink accessories “were over the top.”

“I found the pink condescending,” Ms. Belmont says, “but if it will get little girls’ attention and get them to play with computers, it’s a good start.”

Mattel says Computer Engineer Barbie — and News Anchor Barbie — will be in stores in the fall.

Episcopal Priest Barbie (via Instapundit) is not a Mattel-designed doll.

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Comments

  1. So they gave her pink Sarah Palin glasses and a t-shirt with numbers on it. Big deal.

    From what I’ve seen, the social networking sites solved the problem of getting girls to play with computers. The only time my niece steps away from the screen is to use a cell phone.

  2. Cool! I bought my DD President Barbie for Christmas 2008 and will be looking for Computer Engineer Barbie for her birthday this fall.

  3. The reporter needs to learn hat there is a difference between computer engineers and computer scientists. He conflates them in the article.

  4. Eric Jablow says:

    That’s great. One more computer scientist who doesn’t know mathematics.

  5. Actually, I know quite a few women IT professionals (CIO/CTO level persons), and technology can be made cool for both genders, if one knows how to market properly.

    That being said, I’d like to see more women take a serious look at technology careers, but recent trends in the economy will put the kibosh on that (see articles in computerworld under the careers section for more information).

    Finally, I think using lab coats and other purely scientific stuff is somewhat old school, but is practical, who wants to ruin their clothes by getting stuff all over them. Also, I think a lady in a business suit says ‘wow’ :)

  6. Eric- just because a woman looks cute does not mean that she can’t also be good at math. I’m sick of the false dichotomy society sets up for women between brains and beauty.

  7. What a bunch of dumb choices! I’d rather be a network anchor than some coder in a cube farm, too. Little girls all use computers–but no one thinks being any type of engineer is exciting and fun. Why not offer Barbie some real challenges?

  8. “I’m sick of the false dichotomy society sets up for women between brains and beauty.”

    Yes because there is not stupid but handsome jock/smart pimply-fact nerd dichotomy in the depiction of males.

  9. My DH is handsome and athletic (was QB on his high school football team until he injured his knee) and he hasn’t faced anywhere remotely near the level of people assuming he’s dumb that I as a cute blonde ex-sorority girl have. I don’t think anybody has once said to him, “Wow, you’re a lot smarter than you look!” while I’ve heard that (intended as a compliment BTW) numerous times.

  10. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Computer Engineer Barbie is BORING. I know computer engineers. They wear business casual (khakis and a button down shirt.) They work at desks. They spend more time answering emails from annoying coworkers than they’d like.

    Fashion dolls are all about accessories and glitter. If you want to encourage a kid’s interest in engineering, get her one of those snap-circuits kits, or legos or start teaching her JAVA….

    Seriously–how many women choose their major based on their favorite Barbie? Did a lot of women from my generation major in “Malibu Surfing 101???”

  11. The point is that many (if not most) little girls love playing with Barbie dolls. As a mom, I want her dolls to lend themselves to role play scenarios in line with my career aspirations for her. Most of the folks I know who studied computer science undergrad aren’t coders in cubicles but venture capitalists or other finance professionals, patent attorneys, college professors, etc.

    And I also buy her science kits :-)

  12. >Most of the folks I know who studied computer science undergrad
    >aren’t coders in cubicles but venture capitalists or other
    >finance professionals, patent attorneys, college professors, etc.

    That may be your experience, but it’s hardly the norm. Somebody has to write all the code, after all. If we all just became VC’s who would do the work?

    Coding is hard, especially when solving new problems. It takes incredible patience to fail at solving a problem a dozen or more times before finally solving it. You have to love it or it’s just not worth it. I don’t know why, but relatively fewer women seem to love it. I don’t think this a good thing, per se, but I try not to argue with reality. For the life of me, I don’t see how a doll or a roll model or role playing is going to change that.

    In my opinion, trying to talk a girl who isn’t interested in computers into being interested in them is just as productive as trying to talk someone who’s gay into being straight. We all have our preferences in life and they’re really no one else’s business. Take a stab at changing the culture, if you like, but don’t manipulate the girls where they don’t want to go.

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