LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 18 February, 2010 – IEEE Computer Society President Jim Isaak applauded the selection of computer engineer as the next profession for Mattel's Barbie doll, citing the need to increase female representation in the field.
"Among the more serious tasks we face is encouraging more women to go into our professions and join our Society," said Isaak. "We have only 8 percent of our members claiming that gender affiliation, so this is a major step in the right direction."
As part of a year-long, global brand initiative to inspire girls of all ages, Mattel invited girls and the public at large to participate in selecting Barbie's 125th and 126th careers. Girls selected news anchor as the doll's next career, while the popular vote went to computer engineer. Both dolls will be available for sale next fall.
Computer Society volunteers and members of Women in Engineering organized a get-out-the-vote campaign to make sure that computer engineering was recognized.
"On one hand, it seems trivial," said Isaak. "But this is one of the challenges we face: encouraging young folks to enter our professional ranks; having an attractive image, and even getting visibility at a young age."
Computer engineer Barbie will feature "a binary code patterned T-shirt and all of the latest gadgets including a smart phone, Bluetooth headset, and laptop travel bag," according to Mattel. Isaak said information on the box providing details about engineering and the field of computing would be a useful addition.
Increasing the representation of women in engineering and the field of computing has been an ongoing campaign for many groups around the world. A 2008 report from the US-based National Academy of Engineering concluded that encouraging young people to make a difference in the world through an engineering career is more likely to attract them than emphasizing the challenge of math and science skills.
According to the Computing Research Association's most recent Taulbee Survey, which tracks computer science enrollments at North American universities, only 11.8 percent of bachelor's degrees and 21.2 percent of master's degrees in computer science went to women.
In the US National Science Board's latest engineering and science indicators, only 20 percent of bachelor's degrees in engineering went to women. In electrical engineering, the proportion was only 15 percent.