A computer engineer Barbie campaign

Marketplace Staff Apr 9, 2010

A computer engineer Barbie campaign

Marketplace Staff Apr 9, 2010


Bob Moon: Life in plastic can be fantastic. Just take a look at the latest incarnation of Barbie, set to go on sale this fall. Computer engineer Barbie was unveiled in February. But we just learned today —
in the Wall Street Journal — the reason Barbie became a computer geek, instead of an architect or surgeon: A well-orchestrated campaign by real life engineers.

Erin Fitzgerald is one of those who helped “rock the vote” in favor of computer engineer Barbie. She’s an electrical engineer and fellow at the Department of Defense. Hi there.

Erin Fitzgerald: Hi, how are you?

Moon: Good, thanks. So, you got involved in this, totally separate from your Defense Department job. When you heard about this push to make Barbie an engineer, what was your first response?

Fitzgerald: I was really excited about it. You know, I’m a computer engineer by training, and I played with Barbies some growing up, but never did I ever think about Barbie having a technical career. So, I tried to get as many people as I could to vote.

Moon: But your interest in this went beyond just voting for Barbie the computer engineer, right?

Fitzgerald: It did. I once worked with the National Academies, who were asked by Mattel to give some input on what a computer engineer Barbie would look like. So I provided a number of ideas, I talked to a lot of friends who have been engineers with me in college or grad school, at different technical internships.

Moon: And what did you suggest for these ideas?

Fitzgerald: I loved the binary and circuit board on her shirt, you know, having cool glasses, not having a lab coat, but just sort of being science-y. And the leggings, I haven’t seen a lot of leggings around the lab or at any of my internships, I have to say, or at the Department of Defense for that matter.

Moon: How far do you think this will go to making it cool to being a computer engineer?

Fitzgerald: I can’t imagine that any girl’s just going to just become a computer engineer because someone bought her a computer engineering Barbie doll. But I’ve done a lot of outreach with middle school and high school girls to sort of show them that engineering careers aren’t just this idea of the nerdy girl, but someone that they can relate to and that it can be something fun to be involved in. And I think that having a Barbie doll just reaches such a broad audience of young girls and sort of exposes them to what’s possible and what might be out there. So when they think that something with math is fun, they think, “Hey, maybe there’s something that I can do with this.”

Moon: OK Erin, I have to ask you, do you carry around a pink laptop, like the new computer Barbie does?

Fitzgerald: I wish. I would love to find one, and there may be a Barbie Halloween costume coming up. I don’t know.

Moon: Erin Fitzgerald is an electrical engineer and fellow at the Department of Defense. Thanks for joining us.

Fitzgerald: Thanks so much.

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