Why Barbie should be a computer engineer

By Rosie Khdir

She’s had over 120 careers; we’ve seen her as a princess, a rock star, an Olympic champion, an air hostess and an astronaut, but 2010 could see Barbie in a whole new technological light.

I recently read in an article on womenintechnology.com that Toy company Mattel has launched a contest to determine its next Barbie doll’s occupation and, interestingly, computer engineer is in the running.

Is this evidence that computer science is finally becoming a more common occupation for women?

Over the years Barbie has adapted to reflect changes in society, for example, in 1968 towards the end of the US Civil Rights Movement, Mattel brought out their first African American Barbie.

So, by making computer science an option for Barbie’s next career move, is it a suggestion that more women are entering the field? Well, statistics show that the number of women in computer science has been on a slow decline ever since the 1980s, but in the last two years there has been a slight increase in women studying the subject.

According to UK Resource Center for Women, the percentage of women in undergraduate computer science courses in 2007 was 13.4, which rose to 14 per cent the next year. Ok, so it’s not a huge leap but it is an increase at least.

But, of course, Mattel could always be making an ironic statement about the lack of women in IT and they might even be trying to encourage a change?

I suppose that it’s odd that I’m looking to a small doll, thinking of how it could change the perceptions in wider society. And, really, will it have any significance?

All I know is that after I first set eyes on my Ballerina Barbie, I knew I wanted to be a dancer. Granted I never graced the stages of The National, but the dream and interest were there.

And whether it is a reflection of industry change or simply the interests of young people as they become more digitally minded, or even a statement of a need for change, I’m fully behind it. Go geek Barbie!

If you fancy seeing Barbie trade in her ball gown for a laptop then visit Barbie.com and help put women on the IT map. Votes close on 12th February 2010.

Rosie Khdir is a technology journalist at PC Site. You can follow her on Twitter @rosiekhdir