Open Letter to Bryan Stockton, Mattel, Inc. Chairman of the Board and CEO
Dear Mr. Stockton:
We thank you for Mattel’s apology for the stereotypical messaging in the book “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer.” We ask that you remove this troubling book from the nation’s bookstores (virtual and real) and take further steps to avoid this type of misstep in the future.
Games, toys, and media portrayals of boys and girls have great power in shaping children’s and parents’ beliefs about what boys and girls should or should not do. “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer” reinforces stereotypes about what kind of people create technology. The book implies that women produce stories and design, while men do technical work. In fact, no part of the book suggests that Barbie can do anything but use computers. Instead, boys have to come to the rescue of the helpless girl. This representation is not simply a misrepresentation, but is harmful to the young girls who love Barbie and read Barbie books, as well as their parents.
We suggest that you replace the book with a story showing boys and girls in technical roles, interacting and sharing ideas respectfully, and making equal contributions to design, story, and coding. We also suggest that you hire a social scientist to review the work of your authors and developers to ensure that the explicit and implicit messaging Mattel conveys is consistent with the national need to create and support a highly-qualified, diverse, and effective computing workforce.
NCWIT is an alliance of more than 575 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations working to increase girls' and women’s participation in computing. Joining NCWIT can help Mattel to move forward on your promise to ensure that “All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls’ imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”
Mr. Stockton, NCWIT has worked hard over the past ten years to reverse stereotypes. Books like “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer” reverse our progress. As a major manufacturer of toys, Mattel truly has a significant influence on “creating the future of play.” We hope that you will take steps to make that influence a positive one, living up to your mission to positively impact people and play responsibly. We ask you to follow the Mattel Code of Conduct: make the difficult and expensive decision “to do the right thing” by removing the book from bookshelves, virtual and physical, and make a positive impression on girls, their parents, and the national economy.
CEO, National Center for Women & Information Technology