26 February 2011

Barbie as career adviser

via GOOD Design

I never thought that Barbie was so influential in directing girls' career paths until seeing this blog post that Fennie forwarded me, talking about the upcoming release of Architect Barbie as a response to the lack of women who stay in the profession.

This discussion about the disproportionate number of women in architecture school vs. in the office started, for me, while I was in the workplace.  My architecture firm at the time had a pretty generous policy for mothers in terms of flexible maternity leave and a reasonable work-life balance, although I learned that this was not the norm.  I greatly admired my coworkers who managed to raise toddler children while holding significant positions at the company and balancing the professional career of their husbands (incidentally, also architects).  How could they handle it?  It was only through the grace of company policy (as they put it) that made it possible, along with a love for architecture.

Others haven't been so optimistic nor as fortunate.  In college when I told family friends I wanted to go into architecture, many of them cautioned me against it.  The number one reason?  Zero family life.  I can see this to be true even in the lives of some of our faculty.  At the beginning, work comes first.  It's only after their careers have been firmly established - and the long hours of devotion to projects and clients put in - that they finally then have children.  Others don't stick with it so well, which is why in practice, only about 10-15% of firms are women.

Will Architect Barbie make a difference?  For one thing, her wardrobe doesn't speak to a true architect's garb.  She might have the right glasses, but not the right colors (or rather, lack of color).  She should also be holding an Xacto knife and have a laptop slung over her shoulder rather than a document tube.  Maybe some bandaids over her fingers from cutting herself with said blade would be realistic as well.  Oh wait, that would make her MArch Barbie and not at all reflective of the field.

Back at square one.