I’m sure most of the eyes reading this are probably not of the female persuasion more or less a woman in some sort of software developer role. But regardless, I was in my office bored and found myself staring at my Computer Engineer Barbie. I love it. It was a gift from my boyfriend, and it shows even Barbie can be a geek. However, I have a few issues with the toy. Stick with me.


Back in Feb. 2010 Mattel released 126th “I Can Be” Barbie with the career of a Computer Engineer. This Barbie came into existence due to it winning the popular vote from a poll by Mattel, whereas the winner of the girls vote created the “I Can Be” News Anchor Barbie. I realize this may be old news, but the little girl inside me jumped for joy to see a Barbie that was more like me in regards to my career choice (w00t! a geeky version of my beloved childhood toy!). Finally, something stepping outside the bounds of traditional, typical career options for girls. Although, I applaud Mattel for making such a toy, I wonder how realistic the toy actually is.

First of all, something I find unsettling is I’ve seen pictures of the boxed Barbie titled “Computer Software Engineer,” however on Mattel’s website, she is called a “Computer Engineer.” Yes, there is definitely overlap between the two careers, but typically both careers do very different tasks at the end of the day. Computer Engineers combine Electrical Engineering and Computer Science to develop hardware design of computer systems or write firmware for embedded software, all very low level trains of thought. Whereas the “Computer” Software Engineer as they call it, is all mostly high level dealing with the design and implementation of software. So which is she? Does she design microprocessors for a chipset or write code for the latest app she is designing? What will it mean to the little girl who sees it on the shelf? Since the general public probably doesn’t actually know the difference between the two (or perhaps much about technology), the toys purpose remains ambiguous. Meaning it will probably be uncertain to the girls who buy them. I completely agree kids today are becoming more technologically savvy then back ten years ago. But that doesn’t mean that they understand what it takes to make the iPod in their pocket.

Second, what is she wearing? I know the Society of Women Engineers partnered with Mattel for the Barbie’s outfit, but what geek girl runs around in a shirt covered in binary, floppy disks, glitter capris, and a Bluetooth head piece in her ear? Granted I know that this is Barbie we’re talking about. It’s not like everything she wears is realistic (which is what makes her so much fun). It’s almost like the outfit reiterates the stereotype that women in technology don’t have much sense in fashion. That they run around in unfeminine outfits and pony-tails. Yes, these women do exist and I’m not saying that they can’t have their own sense of style. But rather why would you make this Barbie look less appealing compared to, say, Anchor Barbie covered in a cute, frilly, pink outfit. If I were 8-years-old, I would have thought the Anchor Barbie was far prettier than the CE Barbie (hence the fact that the Anchor Barbie was the girls vote). The outfit isn’t exactly an enticing proponent for a career in technology (although the pink laptop is a plus).

Overall, this toy is still a step forward showing girls there are so many other career options besides the traditional ones that are they are aware of (or that Barbie is known for). Regardless of my gripes (nitpicky though they may be) I hope that it will inspire little girls to learn more about Software Engineering, Computer Engineering, or technology in general since these industries aren’t exactly well represented by the female realm.

Corrie Jones is a Bay Area software engineer who enjoys working with anything to do with software and technology. When not busy being a code monkey at work, Corrie enjoys practicing yoga, exploring and shopping with friends, painting, playing video games, music, and traveling. If you want to see more about Corrie, go here.

An Inspiring Barbie for a Less Traditional Future

6 Comments

  • Kolby.
    Reply

    I don’t do either. I just know how to get around a computer VERY WELL. My boyfriend is a network engineer… don’t hate, I’m slow and tired as sh*t right now. lol. But I am a VERY quick learner if taught well.

  • Tina
    Reply

    Great article. It is good to see Mattel acknowledge women in computer science but I agree with you. I think Mattel could have done a much better job with Barbie SE’s outfit. Frilly skirt beats sparkly leggings any day. Her accessories bother me as well. Who needs a watch when you work on a computer and those shoes are ugly. I also think the “geeks wear glasses” idea should be a thing of the past. I don’t work in the SFO area so I don’t know if there is a industry dress code there but where I am the dress code is normally business casual. If I came to work in leggings and a t-shirt I’d be sent home to change. With that said business casual can be prettied up to compete fashion wise with the Anchor chick and win!

  • oj
    Reply

    Yes the difference between software development and hardware engineering will definitely remain unclear to young girls. Just like how Los Angeles Barbie wouldn’t teach girls how to suck dick for cocaine. They just don’t need to know that bit yet!

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