Maybe Barbie and her manufacturer, Mattel, have caught wind of the news that math-based jobs are now considered sexy. Or maybe it’s that at 50 years old and having tried more than 120 other careers, Barbie is going for something a little more fulfilling than achieving the perfect Malibu tan. Whatever the reason, the latest version of the Barbie® I Can Be™ dolls is … wait for it … a computer engineer.
Perhaps even more interesting is how this latest iteration of the Barbie brand came to be. It seems Mattel ran a poll on its Website asking girls to vote for Barbie’s next career and, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, adult female computer engineers “launched a viral campaign on the Internet to get out the vote and ensure Barbie would join their ranks.” Talk about life imitating consumerism. The rallying cry that brought in the votes? “Help Barbie get her Geek on!”
This wasn’t just a whim or a Twitter phenomenon. Many heavy-hitting organizations backed the campaign, including the National Academy of Engineers and the Chicago-based Society of Women Engineers. It seems the industry as a whole is eager to recreate its image.
According to a follow-up WSJ article, despite the fact the computer engineering is a well-paid, fast growing career, only half as many women are graduating in the field today than did so 20 years ago. Ann Zimmerman wrote: “Other research suggests that young people in general, and especially girls, often don’t know exactly what a computer-science career entails.” Can a Barbie doll turn the tide and encourage young girls to pursue a career in math and science? Only time will tell.
For those of you who are interested in pushing for a Statistician Barbie or a Mathematician Barbie or maybe even a Marketing Research Barbie, you may want to contact the American Statistical Association to get a jump start on next year’s vote. In the meantime, if you’re more concerned with your own career outlook than Barbie’s, you should be feeling pretty good these days. According to 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of mathematicians is expected to increase by 22 percent during the 2008–18 decade, which is much faster than average for all occupations.” We concur, and would be happy to talk to you about how to plan your next career move.