Barbie is a computer engineer… but only with help from the boys
26 November 2014
Mattel, the American toy-manufacturing company behind the iconic Barbie doll, has publicly apologised for its 2010 publication Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer.
Although it was published four years ago, the book has recently come to the attention of bloggers and websites. Intended to inspire young girls to challenge existing gender stereotypes, the book has been criticised for doing exactly the opposite. Rather than the competent computer engineer that the title suggests, readers are introduced to a Barbie who requires help to reboot her computer and who relies on her two male friends, Steven and Brian, for any of her coding requirements:
At breakfast one morning, Barbie is already hard at work on her laptop.
“What are you doing, Barbie?” asks Skipper.
“I’m designing a game that shows kids how computers work,” explains Barbie. “You can make a robot puppy do cute tricks by matching up coloured blocks!”
“Your robot puppy is so sweet,” says Skipper. “Can I play your game?”
“I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”
The boys are also recruited to help Barbie repair her sister’s virus-infected computer, but not before the two siblings engage in a pillow fight because, in the Barbie universe, even budding computer engineers have to take time out for girly play time.
In response to the scathing online reaction to the sexist tone of the book, Mattel has offered an official response on Barbie’s Facebook page and it has removed any copies of the book from Amazon.
“The Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer book was published in 2010,” said Mattel in a statement. “Since that time, we have reworked our Barbie books. The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for. We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologise that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girl’s imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”
The tone of the book is in direct contrast to the work being done in this area by Engineers Ireland, its STEPS team and its president Regina Moran. One of the key aims of Moran’s term as president of Engineers Ireland is be to encourage young girls and women to embrace science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and address what she believes is a gender imbalance in this area.
“Many secondary school students believe that STEM subjects are more suited to males than females. A lack of female role models and encouragement from parents and teachers contribute to these misperceptions, and as an organisation, this is something we must change,” she said. Moran is also the CEO of Fujitsu Ireland and she told the story of her career to 250 female secondary school students at the recent Engineering Your Future: Women in Engineering conference in Dublin last month.
The successful event showcased engineering as a career path for women and highlighted the idea that women remain an untapped resource in the profession. Engineers Ireland’s STEPS team, who run a nationwide programme promoting STEM careers to students, brought together a number of high-profile female engineers along with students, teachers and guidance counsellors in an effort to find ways to attract and encourage young women to take on some of the world’s greatest issues.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2014/11/26/barbie-computer-engineer-boys-help/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/New-Picture4.bmphttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/New-Picture4.bmpNewseducation,Engineers Ireland,STEPS