Mattel’s latest Barbie has just gone on sale. The ‘Barbie Career of the Year Robotics Engineer Doll’ shows how the company is getting serious about science.
The first Barbie went on sale 59 years and has tried out over 200 careers. In 2018 the latest version is kitted out with a laptop, tiny robot and of course safety glasses.
Ironically, Barbie is often singled out as a sexiest toy but has been busting stereotypes since her inception. In the 1960’s Barbie was an astronaut before Neil Armstrong even landed on the moon. She has been a CEO, served in the military and played in just about every professional sport.
Mattel has produced ‘science’ themed dolls before (this will be the third Barbie with a computer science focus) but this version is a bit different. Alongside the doll he company has put together a workbook and partnered with Tynker.com to actually teach a child to code.
While encouraging a career in STEM is to be encouraged; the companies motives are almost certainly driven by a boom in STEM-themed toys. STEM toys have seen a rise in sales in the last 5 years and there has been a big boom in STEM subscription boxes (where parents can pay for a new set of STEM educational sets each month at a flat rate).
Women are still underrepresented across the STEM field worldwide though and Mattel is in a unique to change attitudes.
We always have this issue in how do we get more females involved in engineering and STEM and technical skills… For us it gave them the inspiration, let them know they can do this and then give them some steps to get them started. So we know that they progressively grow and they are the employees that we hire in the next decade to fill the STEM-type jobs that are so critical. Mattel CTO Sven Gerje
A companion ebook has also been produced called “Code Camp for Barbie and Friends”. This explains the basic concepts behind coding and demonstrates them in everyday situations.
Mattel is expected to produce more STEM-themed Barbies as demand grows. Regardless of how you feel about the iconic doll, normalising a career in STEM is a good thing for everyone.