My middle school students seem to think SketchUp a bit sexist

I use SketchUp in my middle school classroom. The kids are always excited to have a chance to play with it when I introduce it to them. When they open a new project for the first time, I’ve noticed that many of the girls ask (in a very annoyed sort of way) how they can get rid of the guy that appears and how to replace it with a woman. I’ve spoken at various conferences on how to get more girls interested in STEM and particularly computer science. I know that one of the reasons they get pushed away starting at an early age is that they don’t feel welcomed into the field. I know the man is easily deleted. I know he can easily be replaced. But perhaps it would be possible for the folks at SketchUp to have the initial object on new projects be, if not a woman, then perhaps something more neutral like a dog, rather than an object that seems to say to female students, “This isn’t for you.”

(Not disagreeing with you by the way) I believe it alternates between staff members at SketchUp, it was a woman on the last version I think?

Edit: It’s a woman now actually, on the default template (for SketchUp Pro, I see you are on the online version and I think that always defaults to a male).

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I know in the desktop application version of SketchUp the scale figure changes every year there is a new version. Im fairly certain SketchUp isn’t trying to push an agenda. It could be a cool lesson plan on making their own “face me components” to replace the current scale figure.

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The figure is there as a size reference. In some versions they’ve used a woman instead of a man. There’s no intention of using the figure to indicate that the program is for men only.


Maybe there wouldn’t be any harm having a male and a female…

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@TheOnlyAaron could wear a dress…


Please let your students know that we actually alternate male and female figures in our releases. Right now, the figure in our Pro version is Stacey! The next major version of SketchUp Free is likely to have a female figure!


I think we’ve done OK:


Just so you know I think the ladies are more aesthetically pleasing. I was wondering though, Is the group of people depicted in the image/models in SU free model prefrences dialogue an accurate representation of the SU team? What’s the canines name?

Well, as for accuracy, everyone has brown eyes, apparently and what dogs are you talking about?

Ah… @mics_54, that is the group that is primarily responsible for getting SketchUp Free up and running! Not necessarily a fair cross-section of SketchUp as a whole, but a great group of developers, testers, product people, and management that worked hard to move SketchUp from a local application to the new web-based version.

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The dog is Luke, and yes, it’s part of our office culture: we’ve been using our own folks for quite some time, and new employees make their own when they start here. The only 2 who weren’t employed at SketchUp:


Good old Steve, i’ve taken him from the bottom of the ocean all the way into the depths of Space!

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And you were both in good company!
As for the original posit, it sounds like a great opportunity for a teaching moment.

It could be a good time to help them understand that they often need to look at the big picture.
In the age of the internet and instant outrage people need to learn to take a step back sometimes and gather more info before forming an opinion.
We are all too quick to condemn someone or something simply because of what someone has said about them without any proof. An accusation is all that is needed to ruin people’s lives, no longer is it innocent until proven guilty. Even when proven innocent the reputation often still sticks. Nothing ever get deleted from the internet, nor are corrections easily found if you don’t look for them.

Moral outrage needs to be tempered with a good understanding of all the issues involved. Knowing the battle is the only way to know which or whom to fight, fighting the wrong ones only succeeds in dampening your powder.

Sometimes a scale figure is just a scale figure.


Your students can choose the default person by creating a new template.

  1. Delete the default person & add your new default person.
    I chose a skateboarder.

  2. Save as Template

  3. Name it. You can also set it as the default template.

  4. To change your template, go to Sketchup > Preferences > Template & choose one. The next time you create a new drawing, the template will change to the one you selected.

Fun fact: SketchUp 2016’s default person was a woman.

And SketchUp 2014’s default person was a woman.

Disclaimer: You can only change the template in SketchUp Make (a free version) or SketchUp Pro. The template feature isn’t currently implemented into SketchUp Free.

Can you students use SketchUp Make instead?

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EXCEPT, … that they cannot YET. This category and the complaint is about the SketchUp Free (Web) edition, which has only 3 templates and not yet any ability to use custom templates. All 3 templates have the Josh figure and the difference is mostly the units setting.

Perhaps replace the characters with the Narnia lamppost or something inanimate and genderless of similar height. Then no one could complain, about gender at least.

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It’s pretty common for people to need a scale figure in their model, so I’m happy with how it is already. SketchUp is definitely not sexist.

I think it would be a great idea if SketchUp Free added a template with a woman.

As a Whovian I’d much prefer a Tardis or a Dalek over an object related to another fandom!

Joke’s aside, the male default - how men often represent people in general and women are seen as an exception - is a problem in society. As an example, here in Sweden the the gendered term “gubbe” (old man) is used in various situations such as legogubbe (Lego minifugure), skalgubbe (scale figure) and even the traffic lights for pedestrian crossings are called röd gubbe (red light) and grön gubbe (green light). While these examples in themselves aren’t a problems they are a symptom of the idea of a general human being being a man. I can see how the girls thinks it’s a bit odd to only see a man as scale figure, but if they are told this changes from version to version, and just by chance happened to be a man when they started using SU, I think they should get over it.