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Information networking program awaits release of new Barbie

After a 600,000 vote with options including an anchorwoman, architect, and an environmentalist, Barbie will enter the technical fields as Computer Engineer Barbie. (credit: Michelle Liu/Photo Staff) After a 600,000 vote with options including an anchorwoman, architect, and an environmentalist, Barbie will enter the technical fields as Computer Engineer Barbie. (credit: Michelle Liu/Photo Staff)

Since 1959, Barbie has assumed over 100 careers, ranging from flight attendant and peace keeper to lifeguard and surgeon. Later this autumn, however, she will confront an issue more significant than her past concerns of: “will we ever have enough clothes?”

The figurine’s 126th and latest occupation — determined by an open poll by manufacturer Mattel, Inc. — came ahead of anchorwoman, architect, environmentalist, and surgeon by popular vote. With the impetus of a majority of 600,000 cast votes, Barbie will move for the first time into the unfamiliar field of the technical sciences as a computer engineer.

Barbie has customarily been recognized as a character of unlikely proportions and unsubstantial remarks, but Computer Engineering Barbie seems to be a step away from stereotypes that have been previously associated with the famous doll.

“She’s always a secretary. They’re all secretaries,” said Andrew Audibert, a first-year computer science major.
A one-sixth scale figurine, when scaled up Barbie would be roughly 5'10" and 110 pounds with a bust of 36 inches and a waist of 18 inches.

Her previous occupations have adhered to notions of compartmentalized roles of women. Together, her unrealistic proportions and history of one-dimensional professions have significantly influenced the perceptions of young girls throughout the world regarding what women can and cannot do.

Barbie’s new career realizes the sentiments felt by students, as well as the the director of Carnegie Mellon’s Information Networking Institute, Dena Tsamitis.

“There is little awareness that young girls don’t have the opportunity to interact with people in this field very much,” she said. According to her, it is important to show girls that they can do what they want. “There is no limitation to their career path,” she said.

To recognize the significance and ramifications of Computer Engineering Barbie, the organization Women at the INI will be hosting a media event later this month featuring Erin Fitzgerald, an alumna of the program who majored in electrical and computer engineering. Fitzgerald was approached by the National Academy of Engineers as a consultant for the doll’s design, which will carry over characteristics akin to those of past Barbie dolls while incorporating a pink laptop computer, a shirt with binary code spelling out “Barbie,” and other accessories.
Computer Engineering Barbie has all the makings of a watershed moment in the movement to neutralize the antagonistic image of women in the field of engineering. With the transcendence of the dolls in the lives of adolescent girls, the Barbie stands to offer a lasting impact on a young society of girls.

“I love seeing any effort that can help young girls see how a career in engineering is both accessible and exciting. It’s good for the girls, good for the engineering profession, and good for the nation,” said Jon Peha, a professor in the engineering public policy and electrical and computer engineering departments.