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  • Writer's pictureCRAIKER

Will Architect Barbie Save The World?

Chris d Craiker AIA

Last weekends Blockbuster Barbie movie brought back memories of one of my first Napa Valley Register articles. In 2011 Mattel toy maker, in an attempt to resuscitate their failing 60 year old Barbie doll franchise for no longer reaching the young audience. That year they offered Architect Barbie as well Doctor Barbie, Attorney Barbie, Dolphin trainer Barbie and over 250 other occupations hoping young girls could visualize their potential futures. The new Architect Barbie came with blueprint plan holders, although blueprints are history, horn-rimmed glasses for that professional look and a clunky laptop. Of course, to be Barbie, she had to be tall, blonde, with a short skirt, a revealing top, long legs and high heels.

I criticized that image then as a cliché as it is still today. This won’t inspire girls to enter the school of architecture, learn the art of modern problem-solving, construction or go on to become successful in alternate industries.

Getting a degree in architecture is not easy. While more women initially enter architectural schools than men (52% women verses 48% men), architectural graduates are the only group of all major degreed categories that reverse the statistics with men graduates at 60% and women at about 40%. (It’s interesting to know more women graduate across the board in almost all other college graduations than men). Today the ratio of registered architects is only 17% women, however that is up from 1% in 1955. One interesting statistic is 18% of all architectural firm partners and principals are women, up from 12% just ten years before.

Today architecture has become a highly specialized industry. Like medicine, only 50%of all doctors are general practitioners. 50% become surgeons or specialized medical providers. A degree in architecture is a step towards specialties such as construction managers, real estate litigation, property development or energy conservation. As I noted 12 years ago, smart young students should use their architectural training to achieve bigger dreams, such as obtaining a MBA into the world of business or the commercial world. Unfortunately, women in architecture has not increased percentage wise since 2011.

Smart young students should use their architectural training to achieve bigger dreams, just as obtaining an MBA is not the end product but the ticket into the world of business and an opportunity to thriving in the commercial world. So should architecture act as an inspiration to create a better human environment.

As to Architect Barbie, this is not the image for the future of women in architecture. The world will need architects dedicated to energy conservation, renewables, sustainable building and net zero energy standards, essential for our planet’s destiny. We need “Rosey the Riveter” as a role model, not a Pink Barbie doll to get women into architecture.

Read article about Ethnicity and Gender Graduates here.

Read article about Women in Architecture here.

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