Mattel just announced that it will be releasing “architect Barbie” later this year, complete with I.M. Pei-style black-rimmed glasses. There’s apparently been a concerted effort since 2002 by women in the profession into the doll’s career pantheon. In general, the recent (and hard to find) “computer engineer” and architect aside, Barbie’s recent careers have been disappointing: “baby doctor,” “pet vet,”ballerina” and “cheerleader” have largely replaced yesteryear’s “astronaut,” “race car driver” and “ambassador for world peace” (not to mention my personal fantasy job: “See’s Candy Store Cashier”). Though frankly, all of Barbie’s careers are a little odd considering that she herself is supposed to be a teenager (though maybe she’s grown up since the 90s, when among the first words she “spoke” were “math class is tough.”)
Now for a little jolt of real life: the good news is, 40% of architecture students are now female. The bad news is, only 13.5% of the architects in the AIA are—which explains the persistence of inadequate number of womens’ bathrooms in most buildings. Women have been entering the field long enough that this is not just an issue of numbers in the pipeline. The pipeline, as with the sciences and engineering, has some serious leaks. I can talk about this a bit. Then say: In truth, Barbie may actually be better equipped than many women entering the field, since she has no children—work/life balance Barbie would surely not be pretty.
Either way, I wish her good luck and Godspeed, and fervently hope those high-heeled feet can urge girls to reach for the sky(scrapers).