Barbie is a smart woman. We know this because Mattel has repeatedly reminded us of her accomplishments (see: all of Barbie’s careers, which span from sign language instructor to world peace ambassador).
Why, then, does she suddenly require the help of two men before she can become a computer engineer?
So says the 2013 children’s book Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, published by Random House. Reviewed by novelist Pamela Ribbon on Monday, the book follows a flustered Barbie who requires “Steven and Brian” to create a video game (after all, she’s “only the designer,” so they have to finish it up for her).
Needless to say, the Internet didn’t take it very well.
And the message didn’t sit well among women in dev or engineering, either, many of whom are accomplishing unprecedented feats. Here are only a small handful of them, ready to give Barbie (and her publisher) some much-needed advice about the real potential of women in tech.
1. Zoe Fraade-Blanar, NYU adjunct professor and coder
Dear Barbie, it’s not a virus. It’s almost never a virus. “I’ve got a virus” is code for “I haven’t restarted my computer in six months and can’t figure out why it’s running slow.” You don’t need two teenaged boys to tell you that.
2. Milena Berry and Nedda Kaltcheva, CEO and CTO, respectively, of PowerToFly
Dear Barbie, it’s never too late to dream of working at a tech giant. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll offer to freeze your eggs. — Milena Berry.
Dear Barbie, in order to become a computer engineer, you just have to learn to follow the rules. It is like the rules of hair care — they are simple and finite. —Nedda Kaltcheva.
3. Brianna Wu, head of development at Giant Spacekat
Dear Barbie, the game industry doesn’t need any more idea people. We need people who can bring ideas to fruition, especially in software engineering. The best way to have your ideas brought to life is to develop the skills to build them yourself. Relying on Steven and Brian is just going to mean that they’ll have careers in 10 years and you won’t.
If a dude in engineering tells you it will go faster if he does the work for you, the correct response is to give him the Medusa-gaze until he turns into stone and the noise stops.
Barbie, all modern software engineers use source control software, not USB flash drives. Barbie can call me any time, and I’ll teach her how to use Perforce.
Finally, Computer Engineer Barbie, if a pornography website asks you if they can install a Safari extension, the correct answer is always, “no.” Computer engineer Brianna does not judge you.
4. Lena A. Krug, software engineer/architect, primarily Java
Dear Barbie, do what you do best and be Barbie. Don’t try to mimic or copy how you think the male side is. Women need to be true to themselves and this is true for anybody, male or female.
But there are unique challenges for women entering a predominantly male profession. Women for a long time have been steered away from the STEM fields. We should drive toward them now, not to prove them wrong, but to prove to ourselves that we can, and if not more importantly, prove to the generations coming up that they can. That they can be whatever they choose to be, without gender-bound limitations.
5. Jean MacDonald, founder of App Camp 4 Girls
Dear Barbie, get a Mac and download Xcode, Apple’s free tool for building apps. There are many good tutorials for just getting started, even if you don’t know any programming yet. It’s fun to create even the simplest app and then run it in the simulator. For even more fun, join the Apple Developer Program for $99, and you’ll be able to run the apps you create on an iPhone or iPod touch.
6. Miral Kotb, creator and CEO of iLuminate
Dear Barbie, computer science is a super creative field, so creative that some of the logic and ideas can even be put into dance. It takes perseverance and drive to succeed as a computer engineer, but you’re a woman who wears many different hats, and I know you can do whatever you put your mind to — and add your own creative flair!
7. Sophie Houser, 17-year-old co-creator of video game Tampon Run
Dear Barbie, with your thin plastic hands, some creativity and some spunk, you can code whatever your heart desires.