Architect Barbie

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Barbie dolls have always been a contraversial toy amongst parents. Some parents feel that barbie dolls’ anatomically suspect proportions distort girls’ self-image. However, Mattel Inc., the toy company who manufactures Barbie dolls have recently started a new line of dolls called the “I Can Be…” dolls. This line of dolls is aimed to aspire girls aged 3-11 to pursue a career they want at an early age. Among that line of dolls, Mattel decided to release a Architect Barbie, dressed in stylish clothes, equiped with a hard hat and a breifcase of blueprints. Not to be a pessimist, but the odds for this Barbie is stacked against her.

According to statistics, although 40% of architecture graduates are women, only 17% of them carry on to join the American Institute of Architects, the discipline’s primary professional group. Despina Stratigakos, an associate professor of architectural history at the University of Buffalo, says “There’s been little in the way of research to determine why women aren’t able to make that transition.” I personally believe it has to due with the challenges of motherhood and the profession. However, if that is the case, in this day and age of gender equality, men should take up some of the responsibility in caring for the child and conseqeuntly allow more females in the profession. However, Ms. Stratigakos is unwilling to lay the blame on motherhood and argues “Not all women who leave architecture do so to have children, and not all women who have children leave architecture.”

This complex problem of females in the architectural profession reminds me of the article “The Computer Race Goes to Class” by J, Sterne. Perhaps the lack of females in the profession is similiar to why there aren’t many non-whites in the STEM field. In his article, Sterne argues that there are very little non-whites in the profession because there are many well known non-whites figures/role models in the STEM field. Similarly, in the architetural field, there are very few well-known female architects. As a fifth year architecture student, off the top of my head I could only name one female architect, Zaha Hadid, the only female Starachitect out of 10. This is also reflected in the educational system. Looking at the faculty list at the architecture school, the male faculty outnumber the female by 3:1.

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