Archive for February, 2010

Computer Engineer Barbie: Geek Chic?

Photo: Mattel

Photo: Mattel

The latest Barbie doll, due for release in October, is a computer engineer with a binary number t-shirt and matching pink laptop and cell phone headset. Her occupation was chosen after Mattel conducted a vote of Barbie admirers.

Whether you think she’s “geek chic” or feel that her highly sexualized figure and clothing sends the wrong message, the fact is that Barbie has a big impact on girls.  According to Mattel, 90% of girls ages 3-10 own at least one Barbie doll and BarbieGirls.com has 18 million registered users worldwide. Like it or not, Barbie is a popular culture icon and a role model for girls.

Now, I’d rather have Barbie be a computer engineer than say “Math class is hard” (as she used to).  But what I’d really prefer is for real role models to become as popular among young girls as Barbie is.

For example, DragonFlyTV’s SciGirls videos and activity guides do a great job of bringing “geek chic” to kids.  The DVDs feature a group of hip, racially diverse girls from around the country having fun with science and getting down and dirty — whether it’s digging in the bogs, playing taiko drums, building a doghouse, snorkeling, or playing sports. The girls make science colorful and fun, while explaining and demonstrating science concepts and serving as real world role models for your female students.

Also, Education for Innovation posted a new video on gender equity for secondary school students.  The video does an excellent job explaining how teachers can incorporate female-friendly learning style techniques into their classrooms to encourage students named Brittany, Bianca, or even Barbie to sign up for and stay in technology courses.

What do you think about the new Computer Barbie?  Is she geek chic or needing a reboot?

State of the Union: Career Pathways for Working Families

I listened carefully to President Obama’s State of the Union Address last month and was pleased to hear him say, “Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That’s why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.”

IWITTS’ work focuses on ensuring that working women are part of the science and technology landscape with an emphasis on technician-level careers. Sometimes we are asked, “Why focus on careers at the technician level? Every girl and woman should have the opportunity to go to four-year colleges.”

True, however, if we only introduce women and girls to engineering and science careers that require a bachelor’s degree or graduate education, we will have missed the opportunity to impact the majority of women and girls who come from working families and who attend community colleges, not four-year universities.

IWITTS strives to bridge the gender gap in technology for these women and girls in particular because 1) they have made the fewest inroads in the science and technology workforce and 2) they are among those most in need of better jobs.

Women and girls of working families deserve entrée to the jobs of the future – green jobs, biotechnology, medical information technology and construction – and I am so glad that President Obama has focused attention on our community colleges and the career pathways they provide to all students.

What do you think? Should we focus primarily on professional occupations for women and girls in Science, Engineering, Math & Technology (STEM) or should we focus in all areas including at the technician level?

WomenTech PosterDid you know? Role Models are a top way to inspire women to choose careers in traditionally-male fields.

Our series of 7 posters feature real women working in trades & tech. Use them in classrooms, counseling offices and hallways to make women think twice about their career options.