Yup. You were right to be worried about robots stealing your job. Even Barbie, the 11.5-inch former fashion model, is in on it.
Mattel has just announced that Barbie is adding the title of robotics engineer to her resume. The new doll, which retails for $13.99, comes in four skin tones. She wears safety goggles and sensible sneakers, rather than heels. Mattel is also partnering with Tynker, a platform that helps kids learn to code, to create Barbie content. It is also supporting the work of Black Girls Code by providing a grant, plus giving attendees dolls at robotics workshops.
This appears to be part of Mattel’s broader effort to become a brand that is culturally relevant to today’s millennial parents, who want their daughters to be prepared for a workplace in which science and technology are increasingly important. Mattel’s history of giving Barbie high-tech jobs goes back a long way: It released Astronaut Barbie back in 1964. But these ambitious, career-minded dolls have been novelties, making up a small part of the brand’s product range. Even today, when you visit a toy store, the fashion dolls get the most shelf space. This appears to be slowly changing as the brand redoubles its efforts to pique girls’ interest in STEM careers through dolls like this one.
Of course, many parents still find the dolls problematic. In studies, Barbie dolls are shown to leave girls with a poor body image and a narrow sense of their career goals. Mattel is single-mindedly focused on changing this perception. In 2016, the brand released dolls in a wider range of body types, and more of the dolls now have high-powered tech careers. So expect to see more STEM Barbies at your local toy store.