Open Letter to Mattel: You Can Change the Ratio

Posted on February 4, 2015

This January 30, 2105 headline

Mattel CEO feels ‘sense of urgency’ for new toys as Barbie ages

reminds me of this great November 19, 2014 TechCrunch headline

Mattel Pulls Sexist Barbie Book “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” Off Amazon

but, I keep thinking: we can do more! I applaud not reinforcing sexism, but that’s not enough. I want to see Mattel promoting feminism [Feminism (noun): the radical notion that women are people].

My Big Idea

Mattel can address their relevancy concerns AND change the ratio. Really. Here’s how…first we need to see this headline:

Mattel hires 3 Badass Technologists to overhaul Barbie

Then, in 2045, we’ll see this headline:

Huge increase in Women in Tech credited to Mattel

Think about it. If Apple selling the first Macs in Radio Shack tipped the balance of women who received undergraduate degrees in computer science dramatically from 37 percent in 1985 to 18 percent in 2010, then Barbie getting her act together as a pro-STEM feminist could tip it back, and maybe even go all the way to 50/50.

Open Letter to Mattel

Dear Mattel,

The disempowering storyline of your “Barbie the Computer Programmer” book got me thinking about how much impact you have in the lives of young girls, and I am writing this letter to encourage you to use that power for good. Programs to encourage girls to explore technology are popping up all over, in an attempt to change the societal view that computers are for boys. These organizations are doing great work, but what we need is a powerful social change agent. I think Barbie is that agent.

I recommend you hire the following women (yes, all three of them, together) to work with you to transform Barbie into a smart, analytical, creative computer programmer, across the brand: dolls, accessories, playsets, books, and videos.

cateCate Huston – An experienced software engineer and more, Cate has written clearly about the challenges women face in the tech workforce, and the solutions. She would be an invaluable partner to craft a believable Barbie programmer, and if she had been on board, you would have never shipped “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” with that dialogue in the first place.

 

omojuOmoju Miller – PhD candidate and Google employee, Omoju speaks honestly about technology’s diversity issues and promotes innovative ideas about curriculum. She grew up engineering her play with her sister using Barbie, LEGOs, and her imagination. Her enthusiasm for technology, combined with her data mining expertise, would bring your sales numbers back up with Barbie toys that are culturally relevant and fun.

 

reshmaReshma Saujani – Founder of Girls Who Code, she notes in this Re/code post that “brands can actually go a long way toward reversing negative stereotypes of women in STEM.” She has direct experience working with girls who are interested in technology and could channel that into meaningful, believable storylines. She also might be able to connect you with some teenage game designers.

 

This dream team, coupled with your brand marketing influence, could truly #ChangeTheRatio.

Sincerely,
Mary Scotton


3 Replies to "Open Letter to Mattel: You Can Change the Ratio"

  • Jessica O'Steen
    February 8, 2015 (5:40 pm)

    Well said, Mary. Maybe you could moonlight for Mattel?! Until they wake up and hire some badasses… I have found taking out my frustrations with this app has been helpful: https://computer-engineer-barbie.herokuapp.com/new#

    Somehow “correcting” their stupidity makes me feel a bit better. I have even gotten some of the guys I work with in on it 🙂 Here’s to hoping they read the letter!

    • Mary Scotton
      February 9, 2015 (1:50 am)

      Thanks, Jessica! That website is definitely good therapy, and I love that you have the guys helping – so important for men to be part of the conversation. And important to remember that Barbie can be strong without putting the boys down.

      I haven’t heard back from Mattel. Maybe they get a lot of letters like that? 😉

  • Mary Scotton | There’s a Lesbian Barbie!
    February 9, 2016 (1:17 pm)

    […] have a Barbie that looks like them. Mattel is a powerful company (I am wondering if they read my Open Letter to Mattel a year ago), and this is a powerful statement about inclusion. Whether or not they read my letter, […]