Alice Agogino was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for her contributions to the design of Mattel’s first Computer Engineer Barbie: Revenge of the Nerds: How Barbie Got Her Geek On.
Computer Engineers Hijack Vote on Career for Doll; Little Girls Wanted Anchorwoman
Alice Merner Agogino, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, got several emails urging her to vote from members of different organizations that encourage girls to enter the field.
After learning about the election from the National Academy of Engineers, Erin Fitzgerald, a science and technology fellow in the U.S. Department of Defense, helped get out the vote. “There is a perception that an interest in math, science and computers means being socially awkward and boring and sacrificing the opportunity to be creative and fun,” she says. The Society of Women Engineers, based in Chicago, alerted its 20,000 members in a weekly email newsletter. Nora Lin, its president, said she hoped the doll would inspire girls to become engineers.
By the end of January, computer Barbie was clearly the frontrunner and Mattel began soliciting input on her design from groups of computer scientists. ” ‘Make us look cool and hip.’ ‘Don’t put us in lab coats.’ ‘Don’t make us look like nerds,’ ” says Nathan Kahl, a spokesman for the National Academy of Engineering, recounting the comments from women members that he submitted to Mattel.
Alas, they didn’t take our advice to
Mattel did take our advice to ditch the heels. But against our advice they insisted on the blond hair. Six years later they released a much more interesting Game Developer Barbie with long red hair and a colored street at the front, wearing glasses.