I got riled up today, and not just your usual level of riled up. I got well and good riled up. Why? I read about Barbie’s I Can Be … A Computer Engineer. You can read about it at this post, which has a decent plot summary. Be forewarned that there is some cursing in that link though.
I won’t list all of my problems with the book, but I will start with for the love of all that is holy, why? Was somebody clamoring for a computer engineering Barbie? Startup Skipper? Venture capitalist Ken*? I doubt it. And there must have been plenty of other untapped career paths that they could have gotten into**. In the alternative, they could have done this one right.
This book provides a very clear message – computers are hard, and should be left to the boys. What’s more, it is a far too simplistic Computer engineering is an interesting field, and one that we should be encouraging more girls to get into. In 2011, the number of female graduates of computer engineering programs increased from the previous year to 11.8% of graduates. That’s an increase. Female computer science graduates decreased to 11.7% from 2010. (Source: http://www.cra.org/uploads/documents/resources/taulbee/CS_Degree_and_Enrollment_Trends_2010-11.pdf)*** Either way you look at it, these numbers are far too small to be meaningful. These numbers are why girls are so underrepresented in computer-related fields. Want more girls making video games? Get more girls into these degree programs.
Now, while I was getting myself into a good and proper dander over all of this, Barbie went and apologized. The book, from 2010, is not the way they would do it now, they say. After all, as we know, 2010 is so long ago and the book is practically ancient. I mean, it’s not even available for Kindles (anymore … as of yesterday). However, I am tempering my Barbie-directed rage, and giving them the benefit of the doubt that they realized this was a colossal screw-up. Instead, I am apparently going to single-handedly solve this problem (except not really).
Last Friday, I wrote about International Girls Day, and a few ways to celebrate that. I talked about how we could find activities to get girls more active. One of the ideas was to get girls interested in STEM careers by taking them to a lab, or to meet with doctors. So let’s go further. How can we get girls more interested in CS and CE careers? I think the best way, is to get them trying it now.
So here’s the project. Let’s connect women in computers with girls who want to get into computers. Revolutionary, right? I am opening up the comments, my email (address on the side), twitter, everything – for a simple goal. Girls, classes, girl scout troops, pitch a program idea. Professionals help them make it work. This will take people from both sides getting involved, so let’s do it.
*Ken seems to be missing from this book. Should we be concerned? Did they break up? Is she with Barry and/or Steve now?
**Other possible careers include: lifeguard, pastry chef, “baby doctor”. My brain just exploded a little.
***That’s right. I did actual research for this post.