If Barbie can do it, then certainly any little girl out there can become an architect. Or so says Mattel as part of its Barbie I Can Be… line of high-heeled, blonde bombshell dolls. Architect Barbie, the 2011 career of the year, is due out this summer complete with architecture inspired clothing, a hard hat, glasses and a document tube. While there has certainly been some backlash as to her accessories from editors and young architects, Mattel’s goal is to allow little girls to role play and try on different careers with the hopes of inspiring future architects.
One may actually wonder if girls need inspiration to become an architect, but according to the American Institute of Architects, as of November 2010, only 17% of their members were female. With an incredibly small minority of women working in the field, it goes to reason that females aren’t being encouraged to try on the role of a woman architect. Maybe a little boost from Barbie could help.
Various people and organization have long been vying to get Barbie to become an architect and finally in 2010, Mattel agreed. University of Buffalo professor Despina Stratigakos and Kelly Hayes McAlonie consulted for Mattel and made suggestions about Architect Barbie’s clothing and her accessories. While many disapprove of Architect Barbie’s choice of footwear, the architecture plan tube, and her choice of pink, the designers had good reason to choose all the items. They had to find a balance between stereotypes and pushing the boundaries. Stratigakos defended the choices by saying, “We wanted Architect Barbie to be both recognizable as an architect, which meant drawing on popular conceptions, and yet also challenge those conventions,” she says. “Who said architects can’t wear pink?”
Whether or not we see a huge influx of women enrolling in architecture and design schools in another decade is yet to be seen, but Architect Barbie and her other professional careers could very well help little girls learn more about their options and explore roles. But we think a little influence and encouragement from parents and real architects could serve as even better role models than the iconic doll.