In Defense of Computer Engineer Barbie

Computerengineerbarbie This new Barbie is an early holiday season release, and was chosen by popular vote online from among five career options: news anchorwoman (the other winner), surgeon, environmentalist, and architect.

The Gloss snarks, "I had never known that being a computer engineer entails wearing sequined pants and browsing some sort of Barbie based site. Being a computer engineer is so much sparklier and pinker than I ever expected."

Lori MacVittie writes that what girls need to get interested in computer science are details about the skills a computer engineer uses and the cool products they develop–not a doll that glamorizes the profession while promoting unrealistic beauty standards. 

It's true that girls need and deserve detailed and accessible introductions to technology. And that's why it's a good thing that some girls will be introduced to computer engineering as a possible career path by this rather silly-looking Barbie doll.

Women earn 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees, but just 15 percent of those in computer science and 11 percent of those in computer engineering. 

In academia, just 18 percent of tenure-track computer science hires are female. 

The Department of Labor estimates that women make up just 19.4 percent of computer hardware engineers; 24.8 percent of those in "computer and mathematical" jobs (like programming); and 27.2 percent of computer and information systems managers.

In other words, the gender gap in high-tech fields is so huge that we should be reaching out to girls wherever they are to promote a more active interest in science, technology, math, and engineering. 

These are highly-paid jobs in fields that are growing, not contracting. Computer engineer Barbie's anchorwoman Barbie friend, on the other hand, will likely be out of a job soon when her local station is folded into an international conglomerate that airs advertorial instead of serious investigative journalism.

Sigh. 

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