Architecture Is Tough! Will Architect Barbie Help More Women Become Designers? Architecture Is Tough! Will Architect Barbie Help More Women Become Designers?
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Architecture Is Tough! Will Architect Barbie Help More Women Become Designers?

by Alissa Walker

March 3, 2011

Architects are upset because she's wearing too much color. Also, scale models hardly ever come in pink.

Did "I Can Be... Barbie Art Teacher" inspire a wave of design educators? What about "I Can Be... Barbie Pet Sitter"?

The 2007 Architect Barbie show was a humorous but skewering look at the role of women in design

A Barbie from the exhibition by Mashawnta Armstrong explores issues of design and diversity

But McAlonie and Stratigakos agree you can't pin all your hopes on a plastic role model. It's about real-life role models, too. "Kelly and I are also firm believers in introducing children to design early on and expanding the mentoring opportunities for architects," says Stratigakos. "The more role models we have to choose from, the better." 

But role models or not, getting young women to want to become architects is really not the problem, notes Kristine C. Royal, of Architecture Royal, in the Architizer interview: "Do I think this will help attract more young women to the profession? No… The trouble we have is keeping women in the profession and actually converting them to licensed architects." And that's the truth.

While I was writing this today I thought a lot about that. What truly influences what we want to be when we grow up? And what makes us want to stay what we want to be?

I always wanted to be an architect when I was a kid, but I never could figure out exactly what it was that architects did. I drew floorplans for my own dream houses across miles of graph paper. I built extensive, multi-level Lego homes (some for Barbie and her clone-like friends). I read my mom's Architectural Digest, hoping to glean some answers about my chosen vocation, and instead was rewarded with glossy photos of chintzy swag-curtained living rooms and bad ads for carpet. My parents didn't know any architects. I hadn't yet read The Fountainhead. I couldn't see what "being an architect" looked like. 

I never found my design role model, plastic or otherwise. Maybe if I had received an Architect Barbie when I was six, I wouldn't have become a writer.

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Architecture Is Tough! Will Architect Barbie Help More Women Become Designers?