Will Computer Engineer Barbie Help Girls Get Their “Geek On”?

Woman-with-computer A funny thing happened when Mattel asked for votes for the next ‘career’ for Barbie. They gave a choice of architect, anchorwoman, computer engineer, environmentalist and surgeon and in all over 600,000 votes were cast. Initially anchorwoman came out top. The voting was open to anyone but you could only vote once and towards the end of the first week Mattel realised that they were receiving a large number of votes from female computer engineers who launched a viral campaign on the internet.  In the end as Mattel puts it ‘computer engineer Barbie won the popular vote’.The way Mattel made online polling as to the identity of the next “aspirational” career Barbie open to everyone played to the strengths of women in IT and enabled women in the industry to mobilise at a very grassroots level.…which is actually a cool thing. There is something most working women can identify with, as I don’t know a single woman who didn’t have at least one Barbie growing up – and is not pestered to buy one for the little girls in her life – despite her internal feminist protestations! Now if we could only mobilise so quickly on some of the bigger issues like equal pay, flexible working and the falling numbers of women receiving degrees in the field despite the ubiquity of technology in everyday life. I’m all for raising the profile of IT careers for the next generation of working women, but I don’t think an IT Barbie could be considered progress as long as she sports her humanly impossible measurements and feet that can only be crammed into tiny high heels.

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