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Lineup of robotics engineer barbies

Barbie launches new career as robotics engineer

Image credit: Mattel

Mattel has launched a Robotics Engineer Barbie, intended to promote STEM ambitions for young girls and improve the limited representation of women in technical fields.

Barbara Millicent Roberts may be most famous for her impossible physical proportions and trademark shade of pink, but she also has one of the most impressive CVs among fictional characters: during her lifetime, she has had over 200 jobs, including astronaut, game developer, palaeontologist, computer engineer, paratrooper and even US President.

Barbie’s impressive line-up of careers reflects the brand’s renewed focus on inspiring “limitless potential in every girl”, in contrast to its historically image-focused reputation, which the brand has continued to attempt to distance itself from. Previous projects presenting Barbie in technical careers have attracted criticism for equipping Barbie with inappropriate clothing for the jobs and continuing to perform traditionally “feminine” roles, such as fixing washing machines or designing games but leaving the software engineering to her male peers.

Now, a new edition of the popular doll has been launched under the guise of a robotics engineer, named Robotics Engineer Barbie. She wears casual, practical clothing (including flat shoes) and lab goggles, and comes in four different skin tones. According to Mattel, the brand partnered with real engineers to ensure that the dolls give a realistic representation of the profession.

“For almost 60 years, Barbie has exposed girls to roles where women are underrepresented to show them that they can be anything,” said Lisa McKnight, Barbie senior vice president. “By playing with Robotics Engineer Barbie on and offline, we are giving girls a new platform for play in their imaginary world and teaching them important skills for the real world.”

In the UK, just 11 per cent of working engineers are women, and the majority of women in engineering have described observing and suffering sexism at work. There are a huge number of initiatives in the UK and elsewhere to improve female representation in engineering, particularly by engaging young girls with STEM. Robotics Engineer Barbie is just one example of a toy brand capitalising on these efforts.

Mattel will also be working with Tynker – a game platform helping children learn to code – and non-profit Black Girls CODE in order to offer six free, online Barbie-inspired coding lessons covering logic, problem solving and other basics of computing. Barbie will also be releasing an child-friendly e-book about coding: Code Camp for Barbie and Friends.

“Our mission is to empower youth to become the makers of tomorrow through coding, and the Barbie brand is an ideal partner to help us introduce programming to a large number of kids in a fun, engaging way,” said Krishna Vedati, co-founder and CEO of Tynker.

“It’s critical that all young learners have an opportunity to explore the possibilities available in STEM fields and Tynker’s Barbie programming experience is a valuable tool to introduce kids of all ages to these concepts while building their coding skills.”

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