In New Zealand, 82 per cent of architects are men. Over 50 per cent of architecture graduates are women these days, but they don’t continue in the profession at the rate of their male colleagues. The story is the same in the United States, Britain and Australia, it seems.
One solution, a little like the Roominate toy we looked at a while ago, is Architect Barbie, if you can believe it!
Thanks to Alana and John for passing along the link to this fascinating article on how a feminist architecture professor helped design a doll to expand the horizons of little girls.
This toy is obviously going more for inspiration than skill development, but the discussion is eye-opening, and Architect Barbie was launched in a series of pointedly hands-on events:
The workshops, led by women architects, had three components: an introduction to what architects do, a discussion of the work of past and present women architects, and an exercise to redesign Barbie’s Dream House. The exercise focused on teaching the girls basic skills for drawing floor plans and encouraging them to explore their ideal domestic environment. Throughout, I was amazed at how intensely the girls wanted to learn how to shape and control their own spaces. One of my favorite floor plans, created by a seven-year-old, included a room for monsters; by acknowledging their presence and giving them their own space, the rest of the house would remain monster-free — a design solution to an eternal childhood problem that would have put Freud out of business. At the end, each girl left with a gift bag that included drawing tools and her own Architect Barbie.
I’m no Barbie fan, but I guess I see their point. If Barbie is going to exist, she might as well introduce little girls to the field of architecture.
Want to see more toys for future engineers and architects? Take a look at our post on the Roominate, which encourages girls to build and decorate a house including doing the electrical circuitry. There’s also one on GoldieBlox, which combines mechanical problem-solving with an adventure story featuring girl characters.
And if you’ve got other tips of toys aimed at encouraging girls into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, please leave a comment.