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 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?

12 Responses to “Computer Engineer Barbie: Geek Chic?”

  1. Gail  on March 8th, 2010

    I worked in IT for over 25 years and now am lucky to be able to work with young women as a professor in the Computer Technology program at a top university. My (few) female students and the young high school women I work with love the new Barbie. I voted for Computer Engineer and love anything that gets girls to think about computing as a cool career. Our only complaint was that we don’t know any “computer gals” who wear bluetooth headsets!

  2. Kathy  on March 4th, 2010

    I think this is a move in the right direction. We need little girls to know how cool or glamourous or interesting it can be in our career! They have already made up their minds on dream jobs by the time they are 10 years old. Although I dislike the stereotypical figure of Barbies, girls are going to own and play with these dolls despite our opinions so let’s teach them as they play.

  3. Dawn Korade  on March 3rd, 2010

    I think they vote for Barbies every year, so let’s start campaigning :)

    And Hi Jon Spangler – In answer to your question, there are few Korades, so I would like to know the City attorney. My mother in law is Carole Korade, but not that Carol that you mentioned. Look up Academy for Science and Design in NH and contact me on Facebook if you have any interest in helping our students, or knowing more about the school.

  4. Donna  on March 3rd, 2010

    FYI Everyone
    No toolbox or engine yet for Barbie. But Computer Engineer Barbie was the top vote getter in a poll Mattel ran online in January. If they run another poll, I say we all vote for Auto Tech Barbie.

  5. Jenny Maurer  on March 3rd, 2010

    Go Barbie!
    We participate in SMARTGirls at my college and anything that gets girls interested in math and science is great.
    As a girl, I played with Barbie. I never did the makeup thing but liked fashion. I didn’t realize liking math wasn’t a good thing until College. I was in computer classes with 4 girls and the rest were guys.
    PS my netbook is red.

  6. Jon Spangler  on March 2nd, 2010

    “Does Barbie have a wood shop yet? or a toolbox and a half dismantled engine?”

    Dawn, I like your style! And thanks for being a teacher. That’s a job that you didn’t take on to get rich or get an easy life…

  7. Dawn Korade  on March 2nd, 2010

    I have always been a tomboy and never liked make-up or the latest fashions. I made my own fashion and it was usually utilitarian. My mother had a Barbie of the original sort- real hair and heavy plastic eyelids. I don’t remember having one of my own, but my friend had plenty and we played with them. I now own all the military Barbies (I am a veteran) and have ordered the engineer Barbie. Most girls are into fashion and makeup and identify with Barbie more then I ever did. Maybe she’ll help us get more girls into the computer and other engineering fields that I now teach. My female students do respond better to me if I wear makeup and earrings and talk about the chemistry of lipstick, who invented the dishwasher, and the structural integrity of high heels. Does Barbie have a wood shop yet? or a toolbox and a half dismantled engine?

  8. Jon Spangler  on March 2nd, 2010

    Like much of America and USA culture, Barbie is superficial.

    (I never wanted to date her, much less marry her, and have never thought of her as an ideal.) For being an unrealistically-proportioned plastic doll,

    I guess she is a more progressive role model than she once was, but I am really glad to know many real women who are smart, tech-savvy–and who have much better fashion sense, too.

    I don’t think it takes much good sense for a guy like me to prefer real, three-dimensional women with intelligence, skills, wit, and depth over a caricature. But I am continually amazed at the popularity of the caricatured Barbies that still abound in our culture. Call me clueless, I guess…

  9. Roberta Lefler  on March 2nd, 2010

    Little girls are still going to want Barbies. I’d rather they see her as a lovely, intelligent career woman, than a “little mermaid!” I have 4 granddaughters. They all love playing with their Barbies. So, I think any chance we get to help our daughters/granddaughters see that being intelligent and aspiring doesn’t mean unattractiveness, is a good thing! – Barbie, you go, girl!

  10. Joan Dannenhoffer  on March 2nd, 2010

    I love it. Real world women engineers are pretty and fun. We don’t all wear grey sweatpants and crouch over a boring computer. The image that being an engineer precludes one from being sassy and hip is a problem.

  11. Virginia  on March 2nd, 2010

    I think anything that encourages girls to think about computers, math, and science as careers is good. I don’t mind the pink computer. I’ve seen lots of college students with colorful computers and my own personal computer is blue. I just wish they had not given her glasses. Geek is one thing, nerd is another.

  12. Jillian  on February 28th, 2010

    Although I think it’s admirable that Mattel is trying to be more politically correct and give Barbie a wider variety of interests and occupations – it’s still silly and unrealistic. Barbie’s “jobs” are always a flamboyant and idealized version of reality, which is fine, because I guess if “geek chic” Barbie was just wearing grey sweatpants and crouching over a boring, black Dell, little girls would not be taking her off the shelf. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that parents shouldn’t expect Barbie to ever be a solid role model or be an accurate representation of something real – she’s just a busty doll with a heart of gold. Real role models should be the ones who raise the children, not their toys.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting