“Revenge of the Nerds: How Barbie Got Her Geek On”. Wall Street Journal, 09 April 2010.
Last month the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Barbie’s new profession being computer engineering. This profession was determined by a vote, one in which I voted, and the hope amongst us engineers was that giving Barbie the computer engineer profession perhaps some girls would look at the computer engineering as a profession for themselves. But this did not go over well with all. One letter to the editor submitted by Steve Schupbacj was published and I took issue with some of his statements. I then wrote a letter to the WSJ but, as I suspected, it was not published.
Thanks to having my own blog, here are the portions of the original letter I took issue with and the response I sent to the WSJ.
p. A12 24-25 April 2010 V. CCLV N 95
“So now, like so many times in the past 30 years of feminist antics, little girls, who will be the primary purchasers of Barbie, don’t get what they want/ Rather they get a feminist vision of what they should want: a world where little must find inspiration in bits and bytes but not in being what they want, like an anchorwoman in high heels and smart business attire, not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“I’d like to propose my own unscientific theory about why there aren’t more women in engineering, and it has nothing to do with opportunity. Girls and women easily have equal access to primary and secondary education in mathematics and sciences. Most women simply don’t like engineering. It’s icky. It’s dirty. It’s sweaty. Why do you think they call it ‘engine-eering’? Most women prefer “tidier professions. Even women who earn an engineering degree mostly end up in nicer allied fields or in management, were they can distance themselves from the messy business of ‘doing’ engineering.”
Having a computer engineer Barbie is not a feminist movement but is rather an engineering movement which recognizes that women make excellent engineers, more women are needed in the profession, and that the lack of engineers is becoming a matter of national security. Many of us hope that this Barbie will break the stereotypes ill-informed people hold of engineers. Engineering is not icky, dirty, or sweaty as Mr. Schupbachs letter of the 24th indicates. Many of us wear coats and ties (or skirts and blouses as the case may be), work in offices, and are solving the problems of the 21st century, improving the quality of life, preserving the environment, finding new sources of energy and helping people live better lives. Further, many engineers do indeed end up in management at some point in their careers and are they highly valued for their ability to solve problems and tackle difficult issues. Gone are the days Doctor Ken and Nurse Barbie and here are the days of engineer Barbie. Welcome to the 21st century.