Talking Cultural Diversity

a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis

Computer Engineer Barbie

By Jean Mavrelis - 04.28.2010

In case you don’t know it, Barbie markets dolls in a variety of careers.  When the company asked girls to pick the next doll, they selected “Anchorwoman Barbie”.

When adults were added to the process, “Computer Engineer Barbie” won, so the company has produced both dolls.

Betty Shanahan, CEO of the Society of Women Engineers, had something to say about what a Computer Engineer would wear.

The Wall Street Journal traced Barbie’s history, and Ann Zimmerman blogged in the WSJ that the field must be pretty desperate to choose a doll to market the career.  Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

“Twenty years ago, women were awarded twice as many computer science degrees as they were in 2008. Of course, there are more fields open to women today. But that only explains part of the reason this well-paid, fast-growing field, is losing women. “Though we can’t be certain of the cause of the decline, research suggests several likely possibilities,” says Catherine Ashcraft, senior research scientist at the National Center for Women & Information Technology at the University of Colorado. “Many of these are related to the image of computer science and the lack of female role models and mentors. Girls get subtle messages from all sorts of places — the media, popular culture, parents, teachers, school counselors, other authority figures — that computer science isn’t really \’something girls do.’”

I’d like to hear from some of you women engineers out there about your thoughts on Computer Engineer Barbie and the dearth of women computer engineers.

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