Making the rounds online are complaints about a Barbie book for girls that supposedly promotes girls becoming interested in programming, but comes off instead as patronizing. In “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” Barbie tries to come up with game ideas, but it’s male characters that end up doing most of the computer-related work. Meanwhile, Barbie ends up getting a virus on her and her younger sister Skipper’s PCs.
While the book was written only a few years ago, it still goes against current attempts to encourage girls to become interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related areas.
Coverage of this story has grown to the point that Barbie’s Facebook page issued an apology, basically disclaiming the book from current official Barbie “canon.” Meanwhile, someone online modified the book into a more positive portrayal of Barbie as a programmer; they even kept the original book’s use of the Tux Linux penguin on the cover.
Although Barbie isn’t much of a programmer, there are women cartoon characters being used to promote better images of women in technology. Case in point: the stars of Disney’s “Frozen” are being used as part of Seattle-based Code.org’s online tutorials to teach children programming aspects. Besides the tutorials using images of Elsa and company, there’s also videos from women working in the tech industry, such as an engineer from Microsoft.
While “Frozen” didn’t involve computers in its story (being set in a fantasy version of the distant past and all), there are other cartoons where women are involved in STEM fields.