Architect Barbie arrived on the scene last year as part of a collaboration between Mattel's 'Barbie I Can Be' series and the American Institute of Architects' San Francisco chapter. Getting beyond the humor (or in some cases, offense) people found in the doll, its debut provided the opportunity for a serious conversation about women and the architecture industry. As explained by the starchitect and Dean of the Yale School of Architecture Robert A.M. Stern, architecture used to be a boys' club. And though the past two decades have seen women come to represent some 40% of the enrollment in architecture programs, just 17% of architecture professionals are female. In seeking an explanation for this disparity, the obvious answer is the particular difficulty of maintaining a balance between raising a family and having a career in a field like architecture, where the demands on one's time and the increasing amount of travel required are acute. But some scholars believe that there are other factors in play, and see the aspirational opportunities created by Architect Barbie as a chance to overcome these barriers and expand the ranks of women working in fields like architecture. Lost in all of this serious discussion: the fact that a doll who hasn't had a major re-design in over 50 years would be used to attract girls to a cutting edge design profession.
· Architect Barbie / A Social Experiment [arch daily]