Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will Computer Engineer Barbie ... Work?

A colleague sent me the link to this post, Real women engineers reflect on the new high-tech Barbie, on Seattle Blogs. It looks like Mattell has a new line of Barbies. Let's see... there is Babysitter Barbie, News Anchor Barbie, New Born Baby Doctor Barbie, Rock Star Barbie, Dentist Barbie, and Computer Engineer Barbie. Interesting. I wonder if this new marketing technique, aimed at selling more Barbies to girls and collectors, will work? It will be interesting to see which "career" Barbie sells the most, and to who (what do moms buy? what do dads buy? what do little girls want?). My bet is on the News Anchor or Rock Star.

I cannot help but wonder if this meek attempt at social engineering / product placement will work? Is there any hope that a doll with a laptop and a bluetooth headset will inspire girls to consider engineering careers, to buck the norm? McGratton, a software engineer, doesn't think so. In her blog post, Barbie and Me, Emma McGratton plans to ask female engineering students at the Girl Geek conference: "Does the fact that Software Engineering Barbie will soon join the Barbie stable of playmates mean that Software Engineering is now considered an acceptable profession for Barbie loving girly-girls?" McGratton promises to post the findings in an upcoming post.

In a linked blog, Is Barbie Ready for An Engineering Degree?, VP of Product Management, Deb Woods made a few good suggestions on upping the authenticity of this Barbie: "Still not sure that girls need a Barbie with a laptop and a bluetooth headset, but we do need to find creative ways to get girls more interested in technology related fields. Hats off to Mattel for trying a different angle on this one, let’s just get the Barbie doll to look like a ‘normal’ teenage girl though and maybe put an Open Source for Girls t-shirt on her."

Geek Dad made me laugh with one of his five suggestions on how to up the authenticity of Computer Engineer Barbie: "A switch to turn on dark circles under Barbie’s eyes from having worked until 2:00AM three days in a row to get all the bugs fixed before the new release is deployed". Good stuff!!

This new line of career barbies makes me wonder, Why didn't Mattell make the Professor Ken doll? Then I started to look around my campus and realized what he might look like: Wrinkled, rumpled and out of date wardrobe, eighties comb-over hair style, thick spectacles, mainlining coffee, dragging a full sack of books and marking home each night, bags under his eyes, pale skin untouched by the sun, .... NO!! A boy barbie like this would never sell. Bah ha ha ha....

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