There’s been a lot of media focus on how the workplace has changed since Generation Y came on the scene. But what about Gen Y women?

From the moment baby boomers joined the workforce, women made it their mission to create a fair playing field for everyone. But after decades of feminists plowing down the boys’ club, today’s women enter a totally different kind of workplace and need totally different advice for succeeding.

What should the new rules be? Here are five ways to get the conversation going.

1. Date co-workers.

I can see how 40 years ago, when it was still legal to ask a woman what her husband thought of her career, it would’ve been bad to date co-workers. Back then, women felt powerless in the workplace.

But today, young women feel they have equal power to men. And they aren’t deluding themselves — women and men receive equal pay in business until they have children (after which woman are penalized for having kids more than men are). So men and women approach dating at work as equals.

The bigger issue here is that if you’re working 40 hours a week, you’re more likely to meet the people you want to date when you’re at the office. If you tell yourself that all men at work are off-limits, you put yourself at a huge disadvantage.

And if you want to have children, you need to make getting married a higher priority than your career. This isn’t some radical statement — it’s backed by a lot of research, not the least of which is that you can’t tell your biological clock to wait while you refuse to date all the men you come in contact with.

So the adage to not date men you work with is totally antiquated. It assumes that women aren’t equal to men, can push back childbearing indefinitely, and should put their career ahead of getting married. All of these are bad assumptions.

2. Show some flesh — but just enough.

If you had any doubts about the power of looking like a girl at work, check out Hillary Clinton’s new look. No one’s more studied in the art of the female image than Hillary, and her new appearance is much more feminine.

This isn’t surprising, though. There’s a wide body of research that shows that women are received better when they hit that magic point between dressing like a guy and dressing like a harlot.

For instance, Yale psychologist Marianne LaFrance found that medium-length hair is best for looking smart; too long is too sexy, and too short is too boyish. And Debra A. Benton, author of “How to Think Like a CEO,” says that dressing too much like the guys is what high-ranking men say holds back high-ranking women.

Hitting the midway point applies to makeup as well. If you wear too much, you look like you’re trying too hard, but if you wear none, people perceive you as disinterested, according to Sherry Maysonave, author of “Casual Power.”

3. Expect harassment, and stay cool.

A recent segment on New England Cable News reported that 46 percent of summer interns will be harassed. And most professional women will experience some form of sexual harassment in their career — some studies even say as many as 80 percent of them.

It’s clear, then, that most women don’t report harassment. But it isn’t because they’re scared — it’s because they’re smart. The laws are very clear on what companies should do to respond to harassment claims, but they aren’t very clear on how to define when a woman has been illegally fired for reporting harassment.

The careers of most women who report harassment suffer, even if the company works hard to do the right thing. The law is too far behind the times, so don’t report harassment.

Instead, have a plan. Know that you need to tell the guy you’re not interested if you’re not. Know that you won’t get a lot of protection from human resources even though they tell you they’ll protect you. And finally, know that just because you encounter harassment doesn’t mean you provoked it. You can wear a shirt that shows a little cleavage and not be accountable for the fact that most 40-year-old guys will take a look when you walk by.

Wear the clothes that you feel comfortable in, because people who are true to themselves at work perform best. But take heed from the research above: You’ll do best if your clothes fall somewhere between frumpy and revealing.

4. If you have to go to business school, go early.

Here’s how things used to be: You graduated from college, worked for three to five years, went to business school for two years, then graduated and got the job of your dreams.

The problem with this scenario is that you’re in your late 20s by the time you start working in your chosen profession, and most women want to start having kids by their early 30s. So, if you leave the workforce right after joining it, you really compromise your ability to leverage your hard-earned degree.

So business schools are accepting candidates earlier. Of course you still have to have good credentials to get in, but it’s no longer essential to have the requisite number of years of work experience between college and business school. Business schools will officially say that the change in policy is to attract the best candidates, but unofficially, the change is to attract the smart women — specifically, the women who are aware of the great biological clock rip-off that business schools were in the past.

5. Tone down your work ethic.

For the last decade, girls have earned better grades and better SAT scores than boys, and they’ve had higher graduation rates, too. This persists through college.

After that, men catch up in the workplace. This isn’t because they start working harder, it’s because what they’ve been working at all along — multitasking with their video games and socializing with their friends — is what the workplace values most. Getting straight A’s is, after all, widely understood to be an unreliable indicator of how well you’ll do in your career.

So stop being the overachiever who does each assignment perfectly. Instead, start focusing on the stuff that really matters at work, like productivity skills and getting along with people. But don’t be too much like the guys — because we know that’s no good, either.

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34 replies
  1. B D Baker
    B D Baker says:

    Once again you take good advice and then write the opposite, apparently to draw attention to yourself. That’s all well if you are seeking publicity, but it’s irresponsible for those who actually think they should follow your advice.

    This sort of behavior that you advocate in this column is erasing a great deal of the gains that women fought so hard to get these past 40 years. Professionalism is still professionalism. Sexual harrassment is still sexual harrassment and should never be tolerated. Dressing less than professional will not help your career. Dating coworkers always has been, and will continue to be, bad advice. Anything that can create more tension at work is detrimental to all parties involved, and having people you once dated and possibly with hard feelings from that experience, creates a bad environment. You seem to not be able to grasp the concept that work life and personal life should never be mixed. It causes a myriad of problems. I truly feel sorry for the young Gen Y workers that think that you give sound advice.

  2. Andre Radojcich
    Andre Radojcich says:


    I disagree about dating coworkers, because I still think it’s bad news to bring the emotional volatility that relationships entail into the workplace, but I agree that when you’re working 40+ hours most of your opportunities for dating are going to come from the office.

    Otherwise, I think your advice is pretty solid, for men also. Don’t let the fools commenting at Yahoo Finance discourage you, if you were just spouting conventional wisdom (which is all the masses are ready to hear) then you wouldn’t be half the resource you are.

  3. L. Bates
    L. Bates says:


    So I read it, went away, came back, re-read it,, went away, came back, and read it a third time before I decided to comment.

    First, I agree – since we spend 70%+ of our time at work, it’s logical to assume we will meet someone we want to date (or, even marry) at work. But there are rules that go along with dating co-workers:

    1) Be wary of dating the boss or other executive. Nothing will send a disgruntled co-worker to HR to cry unfair practices then when you get a well-deserved pat on the back/raise/promotion because you are “teacher’s pet”.

    2) Don’t bring the relationship into the office. No holding hands over lunch in the cafeteria, no longing looks over the meeting table, no going in the office and shutting the door and the blinds.

    3) Don’t bring your spats in either. The animosity, even if temporary, that you feel for each other will spill over into the quality of your work and the mood of the rest of the company.

    4) Better to date out of your department. That way, anything that may be seen as crossing the line is lessened because you aren’t on the same career path.

    5) Be ready for the consequences that come with working with an ex BEFORE you start dating. If the relationship doesn’t work out, you’ll still have to see each other every day – and work together effectively.

    Second, I think you get a little kick out of boldfacing things that will seem inappropriate. “Show a little flesh…” does just that. “Dress like a woman” would say the same thing.

    Third, I agree with this one, actually. My first real job was with a company that sold automotive supplies. At the national sales meeting, there wer 430 men, 3 women. I’ve heard every blonde joke in the book. I’ve been called honey, babe, darlin’, sweetie, etc by bosses. I learned early on to grow a thick skin. This isn’t harassment, to me. Of course, if anyone ever squeezed my tush in the copy room, that would send me running to HR – after I broke his pinky.

    Finally, I’m a little perplexed about the “tone down your work ethic” section. If you’re trying to say, “work smarter, not harder, and network,” then I 100% agree. If you’re saying, “dumb it down and take long lunches,” I’d have to refer you back to my comments about last week’s Yahoo! article.

    * * * * * * * *
    Hey Lorraine, thanks for writing the dating tips. I love that. And I pretty much agree with them. One thing about dating the boss, though. I have found in my own career that when things are going great — I’m working really well with my boss and we’re having a great time — it’s so hard not to have some attraction there, some sexual tension. So I see that dating a boss is very complicated and high-risk, but I also see why it’s so common. (P.S. For the record, I never dated a boss.)


  4. Jacqui
    Jacqui says:

    I think there’s a lot of good advice here. Especially regarding graduate school. My career planning has always been guided by the belief that I eventually want a family, and I know that I have to establish myself by that point if I ever want to be able to re-enter the workforce afterward.

    As to dating in the office, my first inclination was to disagree with you, but my reasons were based on the emotional consequences, post-break-up. Really, though, especially at my age, what’s the likelihood that I’m going to be in one office all that long anyway? Current job-hopping trends definitely make the whole situation easier.

  5. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Penelope, This post is simply depressing, from the use of “girls” in the title to the dubious advice itself. No one would offer advice to “boys” in their twenties about dating, showing “flesh” and taking workplace lechery (or worse) in stride–at least not in these tones.

    As for your advice on dating, you state: “[I]f you’re working 40 hours a week, you’re more likely to meet the people you want to date when you’re at the office.” Yet you and Ryan constantly emphasize the online social networking skills on Gen Y, which runs counter to the point you’re making here. Young women and men have plenty of ways to meet people other than the office. I’m not saying all workplace relationships are a mistake, but it’s foolish to imply this is the main or only way to meet others.

  6. Almostgotit
    Almostgotit says:

    In order to balance a career with the rest of one’s life (which I know you advocate), one must do exactly that. Workplace relationships are always going to happen, yes… but wow is that a can of worms. (Try working with a guy you’ve just divorced. Or staying married to a guy after one of you has been laid off and the other hasn’t. See what I mean?)

    If balancing life and work, finding companionship and starting a family are priorities, we need to treat them that way and get out of the office to do it! The classic way to meet a potential spouse, of course, is to go to church (or synagogue or temple).

    Alternatively? Take a class, go on a cruise — an overseas tour — a safari even. Join a hiking club, an advocacy group, or a gym (**Bonus!** Show all the extra flesh you want in an appropriate setting!)

  7. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    When I read this article I started thinking a little deeper about the tips. Here’s my take.
    1.) Men have been courting women at work for some time. I believe that Penelope is trying to say that women have worked to equality, so use it to the advantage to court if you want, or don’t. Fact of the matter is that women should be able to court men without the double standard (Hopefully anyway).
    2.) I am a guy so of course I would agree with this ;) In all seriousness, it is very advantageous for a woman to present herself well, and a man for that matter. Showing some flesh is no different than a guy wearing a skin tight dress shrit to show off pecks/arms/abs. It leaves little to the imagination. Showing a little skin while being classy about it will speak volumes on confidence. Being confident in yourself, and in the way you look will spill over to the confidence in your work. Dress for Success!
    3.) Business school early – beautiful! If the opportunity presents itself get that education as soon as you can. Get into the working world and make a name for yourself. Some women will want to stay home and raise the children, but others will want to get right back to work and having that extra experience will help the transition. Hell, my wife worked from home on Maternity leave…it’s all preference.


  8. Dave
    Dave says:

    I think the yahoo comment people like to read, bitch, and complain, but not do anything. Everything they say demonstrates that they have totally accepted what other people have told them the status quo is. Penelope’s advice is not for the faint of heart, but it is at least more realistic than the negative fantasyland that most people live in. The “shock value” is worthwhile to break people out of their assumptions.

  9. Andrew S
    Andrew S says:

    I originally posted this on Yahoo, but felt so strongly about the negative impact this article could have that I wanted to post it here as well.

    Penelope – I honestly do not know where to begin. This is by far the most insulting, most demeaning and most dangerous article I have seen you write yet. If I could rate zero stars, I would. Point by point

    1) Notwithstanding the fact that you completely fail to address how bad it is to work with an Ex, when people say don’t date who you work with, it’s because the majority of successful marriages are ones where there is time apart from your spouse. If you work with your spouse, you see each other 24 hours a day, and that type of relationship only works for a very small percentage of the population.

    2) Yes ladies, by all means, show some flesh to get ahead. You will then be known as the woman who got ahead because she showed flesh. So much for women’s lib.

    3) No one, of either gender, should put up with being harassed. If you do, that means you care more about your career than you own self.

    4) Again, no mention of women waiting to have kids. Yes, most women WANT to have kids in their early 30s, but you don’t HAVE to. Women can wait or choose not to have children. I am surprised that you trumpet women empowerment, but then imply that women are defined by having children, which is an archaic bit of thinking.

    5) Your starting point on this is wrong. Girls do NOT score better on SATs than boys. Girls get better grades and boys get better SAT scores. There are tons of articles on this.

    Additionally, I would like to add, my sister is 30 and married with 1 child. She owns her own home and has a promising career. The idea of you telling her that she should “show some flesh” and should “not report harassment” is just repulsive.

    * * * * * * *
    Andrew. My columns usually have links to supporting research when I have a controversial point to make. Can you please click the links before you argue about what the research shows? In this case, you completely ignore:
    1. The link to research about why women should not wait until after they are 30 to have kids. I cite twelve different pieces of research.
    2. The link to the Time magazine article that came out last week, that shows that girls have higher SAT scores than boys.


  10. Tom
    Tom says:

    Andrew, where did your research/information about spouses working together come from? I agree that it can be bad during a breakup but to marry a girl that I work with, I think would be awesome. I’ll also point out that if you date a girl at work and don’t discuss that possibility up front, I’d say your communication skills are weak.

  11. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    On the dating side, another piece of advice for career oriented women (and men) wanting to find a partner: keep in touch with former co-workers when you or they leave the organization — especially people to whom you are drawn as friends (for now because you have interests in common) or romantically. That opens up many more romantic-encounter possibilities without the messiness of “what would happen at work if we break up.”

    There’s no issue with dating someone with whom you used to work. And, you already have a comfort level with them so beginning dating is less awkward.

    My husband and I originally met working for the same organization, but didn’t “get together” until several years after that — but we kept in touch.

    With all the social networking sites around, staying in touch with former co-workers is really easy to do today.

  12. K Cho
    K Cho says:


    Andrew S is correct about males scoring higher on the SATs. The link above is from College Board, they administer the SAT. In 2006 the composite mean (Critical Writing+Math+Writing)for all Males is 1,532 while the mean for Females is 1,506. If you are a serious writer you should not rely on a source like Time Magazine and I hope that you do some extra research next time and double check your sources.

  13. gt
    gt says:

    Hey Penelope,

    Most people take your comments to the extreme. Dating co-workers is a reasonably good idea, it’s just what could happen if things go bad that inspire the attacks on your blog. I would agree however that keeping the relationship separate from the workplace is a must.

    Show some flesh : Again ok as long as you know where to draw the line as defined by your own workplace. The workplace used to be defined by the “appropriate” clothing of the male dominated workplace. I don’t want to wear a tie and I don’t want to see women wearing padded shoulders in their blouses. Dress professionaly, but dress to who you are. Save the more flashy outfits for the company party.

    Expect Harrassment: Most women will and how they handle it will determine their fate. Like you said in a previous article, if you can retire off of the harassment lawsuit, then go for it. Otherwise, think about not getting another job or how it will affect y0ur family or spouse’s job. My wife complained and she was fired. Bogus reasons were concocted. HR does not protect the accuser unless it will be for the best of the company, not the individual. There is no glory in winning the battle but losing the war.

    Business school: Get as much education first before entering the workplace. You will have less stress later on in life.

    Work Ethic: Once you have established you are competant in your job, you need to get along with your co-workers. You may be the most productive and intelligent employee, but if you don’t fit in, you will probably be out someday.

  14. B D Baker
    B D Baker says:

    Penelope, why not take some of your own advice? You want to portray yourself to these people as if there’s this huge support for your advice, which is hardly the case, by removing negative posts from your blog. Honey, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. The reason you get so many negative responses on Yahoo Finance is because you take sound advice, and then write the opposite. The people on Yahoo Finance represent a much broader spectrum of the working world in America and they (we) know what works and what doesn’t because we are in the thick of it every day. You need to take responsibility for giving these young workers bad advice. They could easily ruin a career with some of this stuff you write.

    * * * * * * *
    Hi. B.D. I delete your comments when I think they lack substance. I don’t see the point in leaving a comment up if it does not add to the conversation. Just so you know, I left this one up becuase I think you’re right that Yahoo Finance does represent a wider spectrum of people than my blog. Fair comment, and relevant observation.


  15. B D Baker
    B D Baker says:

    Lifted from an article on Sexual harrassment and office Romance – Southern Business Review:

    Poe (2002) noted three problems that can develop from office romances: adulterous affairs, co-workers disturbances, and supervisor/ subordinate relationships. Other possible negatives include favoritism or the perception of favoritism, potential conflicts of interest, confidentiality issues, and as a last resort a hostile work environment that could lead to sexual harassment (Overman, 1998; Winning & Associates, 2005). Jones’s (1999) team research examined how a relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate affected the group. This is pertinent today since the 2006 Vault Inc. survey reported 50 percent of the respondents had known a married co-worker to have a fling with someone in the office (Gurchiek, 2006). What Jones found was that adulterous affairs generated more negative reactions within the group than non-adulterous liaisons. Jones also found that since supervisors tend to be held to a higher standard by team members, s/he may become ineffective if the other team members fear favoritism and/or lose respect for said leader. She also found women reacted more negatively to supervisor-subordinate relationships, and they tended to feel such relationships affect the quality of work life and the team’s performance. The Stonecipher scenario at Boeing is an example of such an affair that could permeate the organization. In this case, Stonecipher was summarily fired. In another example, one employee commented on the relationship between two employees in the same department where one was married:

    Our department wasn’t functioning. We had no credibility with the rest of the people under us or the people in the field. … The problem went all the way to the highest levels of our company (Gurchiek, 2005, para. 27).

    In essence, the other employees began to continually question the leader’s decisions and orders.

    With regard to conflicts of interest, most organizations with romance policies are including them in the conflict of interest statements (Peikes & Burns, n.d.). Such policies may cover topics such as the overt public displays of affection. Overt displays can disturb others at work as many liaisons take place during work time (23% in the boardroom, 11.4% in the boss’s office, 10.3% in the copy room, and 9.75 in the elevator) (Poe, 2002). A last consideration for firms comes from relationships that end poorly. Today, they seem to be ending more amicably, but a WorldWIT (women in technology) survey in 2005 discovered that 25% of those who were involved in romances “found the experience terrible” (Gurchiek, 2005, para. 22). Others in the workplace have been quoted as saying the office affair “created great difficulties” and was “extremely messy and disruptive” (Gurchiek, 2006, para. 27).

  16. kneurotyk
    kneurotyk says:

    I sure hope you don’t think you’re a feminist. Those of us who are figured out a long time ago asking men for career advice that focuses on how we look is not exactly a smart or effective strategy.

    A lot of this advice is utter crap. And given your photo on this site, in which you’d have to work pretty hard to show any less flesh, I have to wonder if you follow it yourself?

  17. Jarrett S.
    Jarrett S. says:

    I’m surprised at how many people out there are just missing the point. At the same time, it’s kinda nice to know the competition isn’t always that smart.

    Look, what does PT write about the most? How important it is to get along with others in the work place. Now if you dress like a frumpy, painfully professional mother superior, do you really think people are going to find you approachable? Of course not. So show a just a little skin, be a little stylish. It shows you’re a real person. If you actually read the article you’d know she wasn’t suggesting that you install a brass pole in your cubicle. Lighten up a little…

    And her advice about going to grad school early makes sense too. All she’s really saying is that IF you want to have children then going to grad school later on might be a problem. Again, what’s the problem? Adults with evena thimble of judgement realize that you can have children, a career, and grad school, but you can’t have them at the same time.

    The only piece of advice I’m not so sure on is sexual harassment bit. Being a man, I’m not so sure I have a grip on what this really means for most women. But I think she brings up a good point; realistically, there’s only so much an HR department can do, so you might be better off not complaining.

  18. d
    d says:

    I think kneurotyk raises a larger point…

    How much of your advice has paid off for you, yourself, over your career?

    You’re essentially living in self-exile in Madison, WI because your inability to shape your economic lot has dictated that you pull up stakes and move there. Your insights into getting along in the workplace may be colored by the fact that you haven’t worked as an in-house anything–individual contributor or manager–for god-knows-how-many years. “Date coworkers”? “Show some flesh”? Sexual tension with the boss as de rigeur? I feel like I’m reading the Eisen canon (if catch my drift), not something that will benefit me in my career.

    I am not saying this as a personal attack; rather, I’m questioning the authority that you wield in dispensing counterintuitive advice. The secret to being able to be counterintuitive, Penelope, is a track record. Where’s yours?

    Even in your volleyball-playing days, you weren’t delivering success. You did a good job of promoting yourself, but you yourself acknowledge that your results on the court came nowhere near your marketing success. (Of course, you haven’t couched it quite like that, but what good self-promoter would?) And even that, I’m not sure is so remarkable. You’re tall and pretty. Why shouldn’t you get endorsements the way (winless) Anna Kournikova or (winless) Danica Patrick does?

    I guess I end up with a question for you: Apart from self-promotion, what do you want us to take away from this endeavor of yours? “Brazen” on its own is not a value-add. I could go into my CEO’s office and brazenly tell him to go fuck himself, right?. So what are you offering your readership, specifically?

    Again, please don’t take any of this personally. I’m pretty well acquainted with your writing (as you’ve inferred); perhaps I’m being this blunt because I kind of feel like I know you a little. As a person, I get every sense that you’re decent, sensitive, good-hearted, and even giving. But professionally–and in terms of managing your brand–I honestly have no idea as to what you’re trying to accomplish.

    * * * * * * *

    Hi. I’m responding to this because I think it’s important to encourage people to feel free to be both negative and blunt — as long as it’s intelligent. Note that I deleted your swear word. Please don’t swear in the comments, okay? But you appear to ask an honest question. So here’s the answer:

    I write becuase I am trying really hard to figure out how to make the intersection of work and life good for myself. But it’s very hard to do alone. There are a lot of tough issues at this intersection. I love blogging becuase I end up with a community of people who are asking the same questions I am. To me, figuring out the intersection of work and life is a group effort. The comments section on Brazen Careerist makes me so happy. People here are incredibly smart and thoughtful and they ask tough questions of themselves. All that makes life more fun and more interesting to all of use, I think — at the intersection of work and life and beyond.


  19. ascian
    ascian says:

    Kudos for continuing to have an opinion despite the appalling number of personal attacks in the comments over at Yahoo Finance. People are just wilfully misinterpreting what you say.

    I agree that it doesn’t hurt to date co-workers, although I agree with the earlier commenter that I would never date someone in my team. I also agree that it’s ok to dress in a more feminine way – there is a female-professional look that is not slutty-secretary and not asexual-robot.

  20. Kathy Cheng
    Kathy Cheng says:

    Out of the five tips for “workplace success,” only the business school tip is of any value at all. Aren’t there any better topics out there for Gen Y women workers than dating, hair, makeup and fashion?

    And where are the other comments from the Gen Y “girls”?

  21. Almostgotit
    Almostgotit says:

    Darn it, some of the best commentors here don’t have blogs… or don’t link to them, if they do. I want to read more from “BD Baker” and “d”!!!

    The latter of whom asked a question, BTW, which Penelope responded to but really didn’t answer. Are you saying you blog only to ask questions? ‘Cause a book titled “The New Rules,” and posts with titles beginning with “The new girl’s guide..”, “Five tips…” and “How to..” all sound pretty declarative to THIS reader…

  22. d
    d says:

    Hi, Penelope.

    Thank you for your gracious response. As Almostgotit points out, though, you don’t really answer the question.

    What I hear you saying is that writing is essentially a cathartic thing for you, and it helps you work through stuff. (This seems consistent with your earlier endeavors.)

    But is “self-catharsis” the answer to my question (“What are you offering your readership?”)? What is the value proposition? I still don’t get it.

    Almostgotit also noted that you come out with things that sound pretty declarative: in other words, casting yourself as a purveyor of sound advice.

    So which is it: catharsis or career counsel? If the former is the case, then I quite honestly agree with BD Baker’s statement that “You need to take responsibility for giving these young workers bad advice.”

    (Confidential to Almostgotit: Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately–notwithstanding the “blog under your own name” advice (or catharsis :-P )–my employer would find me and terminate me if I blogged. Silicon Valley is a very small place…)

  23. Brian Johnson
    Brian Johnson says:

    I’m constantly awestruck by lazy commenters, especially on yahoo, who assume Penelope has no professional accomplishments because they won’t take 90 seconds to read her bio and similarly dismayed by others like “d” that can craft a well-written response but are dismissive about the difficulty and impressiveness of Penelope’s accomplishments. I’ve yet to see her defend her background, which says a lot about both her confidence and lack of ego.

    Not that she needs me to defend her, but making a living as a professional athlete is a TREMENDOUS accomplishment. Founding a company and taking it to IPO is something VERY few people have accomplished. Becoming a nationally syndicated author with multiple book deals is HIGHLY UNCOMMON. Each of these requires skills, work ethic, and intelligence that is well beyond avearge and I think it’s a tremendous blessing to hear brutally candid insights from someone with her experiences – even when I disagree with those insights.

    Say what you will about her advice, but to dismiss her career as average or meaningless is ignorant.

    And I love the simpltetons that rip her business knowledge simply because she decided to move to Madison, WI. Quick fact: there are more Fortune 500 CEO’s to come out of Madison than any other university in the country. Harvard is 2nd.

  24. lizzgeorge
    lizzgeorge says:

    I am a young female banking professional, and I find this advice very useful, entertaining, and important. I’ve used variations of all this advice and it has worked very well for me in my career. I think some people are jumping to extreme conclusions when they consider her points.

    1. Wardrobe: Think sassy suits and fitted blouses a la the females on TV shows like Boston Legal. Showing some skin doesn’t mean wearing a mini-skirt or halter top to work. Nowhere in her article does she advocate straying from a conservative professional attire. It’s important to look neat, clean, fashionable, and professional in the workplace. Women today can do this without wearing a formless bulky suit (unlike our mothers).

    2. Sexual Harassment: Come on people. Do you really think P is saying that you should turn a blind eye if you are groped, ogled, threatened, or otherwise seriously harassed? The fact is that the most common forms of sexual harassment (which has a VERY broad definition) are not serious and may even be unintentional. Think sexist office jokes, sexist questions or comments on your personal life, and innocent flirtation (if it’s unwanted it’s legally harassment). These things should be brushed off or playfully but pointedly checked. If you make a big deal of it, complain to your boss, or otherwise throw a fit, you’ll be labled a bitch/prude and cast out of the office social network. NOT good for the career.

    Work Ethic: Hello? No one is saying not to work hard! She said to RELAX because many women tend to work themselves ragged while overlooking other important things that will advance your career (like getting to know your boss, chatting with peers, bonding with the admins, etc). Many women spend years holed up in their cubicles while glaring at their male counterparts who seem to always be goofing off, responding to ridiculous group emails, and playing mini-golf in the boss’ office (this all happens on a daily basis at my financial firm). They keep their heads down working feverishly and then wonder why they haven’t been noticed and promoted like those “slacker” males.

    * * * * * * *
    Yes. To all this. Liz, thank you for a great interpretation of the post.


  25. Dave
    Dave says:

    I like your reply to the comment above from “d” because it illustrates so fundamentally how things are changing today with respect to advice, “expertism” and learning. There is an approach to life–perhaps it is what you keep talking about that millennials do more automatically–that is so much more communal experimentation as a way of learning. You are not the last word. You say things that are controversial. Then other people argue. Together, we learn. I don’t expect to read ANYTHING from ANYONE that is truly authoritative. It’s the dialog and the experience we learn from, not just the initial content.

    Remember all those [insert topic] for Dummies books? Absolutely worthless. Imagine how futile a “Facebook for Dummies” book would be. (although I’m sure it’s in the works.) Instead people just try things and see what happens. That’s how you learn. So we don’t expect some great oracle to deliver the perfect advice to us. Instead, we need people who will stir the pot, keep the conversation going, and expose us to ideas we had not considered before.

  26. MarilynJean
    MarilynJean says:

    Good writers write things that get people to agree with them. The best writers write about topics that promote thought, dialogue…and disagreement. That’s a good thing. I want to echo what some people have already said about how Brazen is here not to dictate workplace rules, but to put new ideas out there and encourage the reader to come to their own conclusions.

    Attacking the writer and not the material is a sign of ignorance. I appreciate dissenting views when they are presented based on the material itself and not Penelope’s personal history or character. (If you want to question her ability to write an advice column based on her work history, I hope you also question the current President’s ability to lead a country based on his resume. Oh wait, we don’t do that with men, just women.)

    I don’t agree with everything Penelope says and I like her blog all the more for that reason.

  27. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I just don’t understand why you keep writing for Yahoo Finance since you do nothing but compare the readers of your blog to the Yahoo readers. You say you prefer the commenters on this blog but yet to continue to work for Yahoo.

    I have to admit, this is the second article I’ve read and so far, I agree with most of the Yahoom readers….many of your tips can get people reprimanded or even fired from normal jobs. I understand that not everyone holds down “normal” jobs, but you are reaching out to a variety of people and I bet most of them work in traditional places.

    Maybe if you prefaced your articles with “These are things I hope our professional society will take into consideration for the future.” maybe people would be less inclined to tell you how wrong you are.

    It’s one thing to dream and hope and it’s another to act like this is how bosses and companies are NOW. Most college grads following your advice to the T may be confronting a not so friendly work place once that grad starts implementing your advice.

    Bottom line, I don’t understand why you continue to write articles for Yahoo Finance if you have nothing good to ever say about Yahoo readers….

  28. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    “Bottom line, I don't understand why you continue to write articles for Yahoo Finance if you have nothing good to ever say about Yahoo readers – ”

    There’s a very basic answer for this: Yahoo pays bills and brings in a wider audience. Writing is Penelope’s job, not an interesting hobby. If I could get signed on as an advice columnist, then I’d put up with anonymous insults too.

    All jobs have their less savory aspects. Being a writer involves lots of very public criticisms. It sucks, especially when your critics have nothing of value to say and resort primarily to personal attacks. But that doesn’t mean that the author should retreat and effectively quit her job because she doesn’t like her audience. On the other hand, it’s definitely permissible for the audience to “fire” an author by ignoring her.

    Which brings me to a roundabout point that Penelope may not really appreciate me bringing up. (Sorry! Can’t resist!) Yahoo is not going to fire Penelope for having low reviews. Yahoo is in the business of attracting eyes; so long as Penelope generates interest, then she’s going to be kept as an employee. The same goes for her blog. Websites are labeled as successful or failures based on how many people visit them. (There are exceptions, but you have to be a true social pariah to merit being dumped despite high page views.) If you really disagree with Penelope and deeply believe that she should have no authority whatsoever as a role model, then don’t look. Don’t generate arguments and get people visiting a post several times a day to look at new comments. Just shake your head quietly and don’t come back. Because every time you visit here and every time you leave a nasty Yahoo comment, you generate a little more publicity. And publicity is what keeps the wheels turning.

    Brief Digression on Why Comments Are Superior Here: Take a random polling of 100 Yahoo comments and tell me how many of those actually contain constructive input (whether negative or positive). I’d estimate that 90% of the comments on Yahoo can be summarized as either “Penelope is so right” or “Penelope is so wrong”. Both are equally useless to someone who wants to open up a dialog. Good comments directly respond to the piece at hand or to previous comments. Constructiveness is a function of content density, not polarization.

    All true, Kathryn. One more thing. A reason the comments are so good here is that someone would put into their comment a “Brief Digression” section of their comment. Such good writing. I love that.

  29. CyberNorris
    CyberNorris says:

    Penelope shared some good stuff here. I just had a professional project manager tell me she didn’t get promotions until she started blow drying her hair and wearing makeup. You probably won’t get this kind of advice in any MBA program, but it is still valuable. The human element is too important to ignore.

  30. Wisconsinite
    Wisconsinite says:


    Yahoo!Finance is getting desparate to recycle this article, but I’m afraid that I am correct that you are their Rosie O’Donnell. Well then keep up the good work! Giddyup Girl!

  31. John Goulden
    John Goulden says:

    Sorry, but in today’s environment smart professional men will not have anything to do with their female co-workers. So your prospects are (a) idiots and (b) men far enough up the ladder that they dare do what others do not. And members of (b) know that they’re a good enough catch that they can play the field with impunity and will break your heart.

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