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 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.