Yes, you read that right. There’s a new Barbie in town. Barbie STEM kit (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math) offers a mini-skirt wearing technician—flagging up the first problem—who only fixes or builds domestic appliances.
Professional women have argued that the domestic context of the new Barbie reinforces the idea that a woman’s focus is and should be the home. The toy’s maker, Thames & Kosmos, counters that children at that age mostly know about things they find in their own houses, so the domestic focus is age-appropriate. However this argument doesn’t seem to hold when considering toys for boys, routinely featuring racing cars, farm tractors, and jets or spaceships.
Tereza Pultarova, reporting on the Barbie for The Institute for Engineering and Technology, notes that in the UK only 9% of engineers are women, the lowest proportion in Europe. If Engineer Barbie can encourage more girls to take an engineer’s path, does it matter that she wears a mini skirt? Should engineering necessarily take away a woman or girl’s femininity? Perhaps one thing we can all agree on – we need more diverse and creative toys to encourage STEM skills among girls.