I think Marissa Mayer has Asperger Syndrome

Marissa Mayer has just been named CEO of Yahoo. She is a powerhouse in Silicon Valley and she was on the cover of the most recent Fortune Magazine 50 Most Powerful Women issue.

Before I tell you why I think she has Asperger Syndrome, I want to tell you why I think it’s important: Aspergers is a serious disability that is very very difficult to diagnose in girls. (I know this all too well: I have Aspergers, and I was not diagnosed until I was an adult.)

Aspergers is a mental disability that primarily affects peoples’ ability to read social cues. You might think this is a small deficit, but actually social skills are essential to almost everything we do. An inability to read social cues leads to so much isolation and misunderstanding that suicide is relatively common among people with Aspergers.

Most people with Aspergers have a very high IQ. There is a lot written about men with Aspergers. The mental disorder is so common in Silicon Valley that it has been called The Geek Syndrome. Microsoft was one of the first companies to provide insurance coverage for Aspergers treatments, and the company did it because so many people at Microsoft have it, and the disability is genetic, so employees were having to pay for their kids’ therapies.

Perhaps the most elucidating fact about the seriousness of Aspergers is that a diagnosis qualifies a child for special education services which are extremely costly to the public schools but the services are considered essential because high IQ is not enough to succeed in most cases.

You know what it looks like in men: Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg. They are geniuses who are socially awkward. As long as they stay in their realm where brains matter most, they are okay. They can pass. Taken out of that realm, performing social skills in an unscripted way, they look weird.

Social skills exist on a continuum. Men as a group have fewer social skills than women. So women with Aspergers will still appear to have more social skills than many men without Aspergers. Also, girls are more likely to ask for help navigating the world as they grow up, so their stumbling blocks will be less obvious.

It’s important to be able to identify Aspergers in girls so they can get the same level of help in school that the boys are getting. Kids with Aspergers need help with executive functions and pragmatic language. Often parents of girls don’t notice the deficit until the girl is depressed and functioning below grade level. And sometimes, women don’t notice they have Aspergers until late in life, as they look for an explanation for how they can be so incredibly smart and incredibly incompetent at the same time.

Identifying Mayer as having Aspergers will help women of all ages understand themselves better. And it should also give lots of women a roadmap for how to be succeesful at work if you have Aspergers. Because for most women, what Mayer has achieved is unattainable, but for women with Aspergers, and a support system, that might not be the case.

1. Mayer is a math genius.
She has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford in artificial intelligence, and she has a photographic memory. Not all math geniuses have Aspergers, but Wired magazine wrote that there is strong correlation. People with Aspergers think in systems and memorize systems very well. There tends to be an inverse relationship between one’s feeling and sensitivity part of the their brain vs. their mathematical and logical part of their brain. Asperger’s is a spectrum disorder. Being good at systematic thinking is part of that spectrum.

2. Mayer focuses exclusively on work.
We know that men are good at focusing on work obsessively and women are not as interested in that type of focus. There are exceptions. For example, women who are ENTJs on the Myers Briggs scale can focus obsessively on work. But that is less than 1% of the population. In general, when there are kids involved, the careers of men remain constant, and careers of women start tanking, not because women are unambitious or incapable, but because women choose to have a multifaceted focus rather than a single focus. Mayer, on the other hand, has no problem focusing on work in the face of kids. And people with Aspergers typically have obsessive focus on whatever interests them.

3. Mayer is a black and white thinker.
She famously was in charge of the content of the home page at Google. In fact, though, the page is largely empty, and she was largely in charge of saying no. Which people with Aspergers are very good at. You find people with Aspergers in jobs where there is clearly a right answer. Or at least they think there is a right answer. So Mayer was the queen of Quality Assurance at Google, a job well suited for anyone with Aspergers. Also, she was able to turn other disciplines into black and white decision points. Like design. Designers at Google quit because Mayer was so adamant that design is a statistics exercise, with trial and error from A/B testing ad infinitium.

4. Mayer has terrible social skills at work.
Some of you will say “What about Sheryl Sandberg? She is obsessively focused on work. Does she have Aspergers?” But Sandberg’s job is, among other things, to add some competent management skills to Mark Zuckeberg’s rough edges. People love working with her. And she is likely just a top-flight ENTJ. Mayer, on the other hand, is a terror to work with. She is notoriously very very hard working and very very smart, and very very difficult to get along with. You might look at Mayer on video and say she looks fine. But you will not find Mayer in an unstructured conversation on video. Structured conversations flow more on the basis of intellect. It’s the unstructured ones that are really difficult for someone with Aspergers. Those are all social skills.

5. Mayer has a very odd laugh.
Her laugh is notable enough that someone has created a video collage of her laugh. A laugh is, in fact, a social skill. First, you need to learn when to laugh, because there are socially acceptable times to laugh. For example, it is not okay to be the only person in the room laughing. But that’s a hard thing for someone with Asperger’s to grasp. While toddlers intuitively develop their own laugh, just like they develop their own smile, people with Aspergers don’t always do that. It is common for people with Aspergers to have either a wacky smile when you tell them to smile for the camera, or a wacky laugh.

So look. You can argue if all these things add up to Aspergers or not. And it’s unlikely that Mayer will ever get herself tested. But what is undeniable is that someone with traits that typically indicate a woman with Aspergers has made it to the top of Yahoo.

If you google “famous people with Aspergers” you find almost all men. The only way to get women into the list is to start understanding and talking about what women with Aspergers look like. And they look like Marissa Mayer.


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  1. sigh
    sigh says:

    Wow. How is this headline and article any different from diagnosing someone you don’t know with cancer or a brain tumor or psychosis or infertility? It’s unfounded, a reckless thing to do to her professionally, and potentially defamatory.

    • Daniel Baskin
      Daniel Baskin says:

      If Penelope had a long-distance, remote MRI machine (made it up), she could diagnose someone with certain medical conditions if she had studied how to diagnose someone.

      But she has studied MBTI and has a lot of experience in perceiving certain traits of Asperger’s people.

      Actually, forget my last two sentences. Did you even ready the f—ing article?

      • sign
        sign says:

        Yeah, I read it. She’s not a doctor and she’s never examined Marissa Mayer. Even people who ARE doctors won’t make diagnoses of people they’ve never examined, let alone met. This is being reckless with someone’s reputation. It’s potentially defamatory, and it’s silly. Imagine if the headline had been “Marissa Mayer has anorexia.” Or kleptomania. You don’t diagnose people you’ve never met, in ways that could harm them professionally.

        • Khalid
          Khalid says:

          I don’t think we really need to worry about Marissa’s reputation.

          More importantly, though Penelope isn’t a doctor, when you know the symptons/signs well, it’s pretty obvious. For example, the character Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory clearly has Asperger’s. The creators and writers have always said he’s just Sheldon, because they don’t want to be accused of making fun of someone with Asperger’s. But the signs are there and it’s obvious to anyone with it. Even the actor playing him has read books on the subject and remarked that it’s pretty obvious that he has it.

          All the above said, if someone sends a legal request demanding that this post is taken down, well i’s for Penelope to decide how to deal with that.
          Given how insulting some magazines and blogs are, merely making an observation like this is hardly a big deal.

          • Arthur Li
            Arthur Li says:

            I agree with those who say speculating on whether a public figure has a disorder that could affect their reputation (and is their own personal business) has no place in a highly visible public blog. Whether or not the author of the blog is correct in her assessment is beside the point. It is still just speculation, might not be true, and blogging about it could harm someone’s reputation unnecessarily. Such speculation is fine with colleagues or friends in one’s personal circles, but there is no place for potentially harmful speculation in a blog as publicly visible as this one.

          • Disgusted
            Disgusted says:

            Harm to Mayer’s reputation is not the point here — she’s a public figure — but harm to women in general is very, very relevant.

            Hardworking women for decades have been labelled bitches. Now we’re being labelled as having Asperger’s or autistic.

            You know, I have an awkward laugh. I excel in math, and I work extremely hard. I have to say “no” to a lot of people, and some people think I’m hard to get along with because of that. So now I suddenly have Asperger’s?

            Come on, people. Can you not see this article is extremely wrongheaded, if not sexist? Can you not appreciate that saying “no” to a bunch of male engineers will likely lead to being called “difficult” and “socially inept”?

            As a lawyer, I empathize with Mayer. Many female lawyers go back to work a week after their babies’ births. They get criticized for it, despite the fact that men do it all the time. Let’s not add the label “Aspergers” to this already heartwrenching situation. It doesn’t help women, and it doesn’t help people who truly have Aspergers.

        • trish
          trish says:

          In geek culture, people BRAG about having Asperger’s, so I don’t think MM’s reputation is at risk here.

        • molly
          molly says:

          She didn’t diagnose her. The title states “I THINK….”. There is a difference. It’s about Penelope’s thoughts and opinions on this public figure, not a diagnosis.

    • Autistic
      Autistic says:

      What an awful comment to make. Does anyone here even know what Asperger’s here? What sick mind really compares it to a psychosis or says it’s such a terrible disability except people with skewed beliefs?

    • Craig
      Craig says:

      Because symptoms of Autism Spectrum disorders are almost exclusively judged by human perception. It’s a disorder of having poor social skills (among other things). Cancer is a medical condition that only a physician can diagnose.

      It’s not at all “dangerous” to guess at who has Asperger Sydrome and it is NOT a oh-goh-my-life-is-over condition. It many ways it’s an advantage. Even the examples on this page, widely considered to be on the autism spectrum, are billionaires.

      Just because the things you mention are within the same domain doesn’t mean they are in any way equal and the mindset of “only a medical professional should judge” is f*cking naive, clueless and idiotic.

      I strongly suggest you either develop the ability to think critically or develop the ability to know when your own opinion is just clueless, embarrassing noise for the sake of saying your piece.

  2. Maureen Sklaroff
    Maureen Sklaroff says:

    This is an interesting post. In some ways, it would be great if she did have Asperger’s and it was diagnosed, as the world really needs to know that boys aren’t the only ones who suffer from autism. I believe my youngest daughter has Asperger’s (my oldest son is formally diagnosed). I may have it as well. When I took my daughter to took into a diagnosis at the same place I took my son, they just diagnosed her with separation anxiety. They totally blew off every thing that I felt hinted at Asperger’s, saying that her problems were all caused by us homeschooling (even though she was even a preschooler yet).

    • Harumph
      Harumph says:

      The mistake you made was taking your daughter to a doctor for a diagnosis. Clearly, you should have taken her to Penelope.

    • Craig
      Craig says:

      I have high functioning Autism and I’m certainly not “suffering” from it. I’m loving every minute.

  3. Veronica
    Veronica says:

    How does your swimming and English degree qualify you to write such an article on attempting to diagnose someone with Asperger’s?

    I’m an SLP with extensive experience working with children ages 2 years to 22 years old who have been properly diagnosed under the Autism Spectrum. SLP’s are required to administer tests in order to suggest a person may be under the Autism spectrum.

    I will no longer subscribe to you.


    • Ian
      Ian says:

      i think it’s mainly having Asperger’s Syndrome that qualifies Penelope to diagnose someone as having Asperger’s Syndrome.

      and, dear Penelope, it’s just fine – even something of a mark of distinction – to be the only person in the room laughing if you’re the only person in the room who gets the joke.

    • Craig
      Craig says:

      Sorry but someone on the Autism spectrum themselves has an insight and understanding you will *never* have. There is no substitute for first-hand experience and the concept of “empathy gap” is fairly well understood.

      Take yourself seriously all you want but working with 2 to 22 year-olds means you can mostly dictate and formulate instead of communicating with and understanding the people who’ve had a lifetime to reflect on their condition.

      There are a ton a clueless people with credentials in the world. I find people who are in a big rush to mention their credentials do so because they fall back on them from lack of anything more substantial.

      • Hypebabe1
        Hypebabe1 says:

        Yep I agree with you Craig. Nothing worse than people with qualifications, conventional thinkers focused solely on theory, trying to tell people that they have all the answers.

        I for one appreciate this article very much. Especially since I notice the exact traits mentioned here about Marissa in my own partner. I’ve always thought there was something odd about him but have never been able to put a finger on it – extremely analytical, great at maths,systems, data, and obsessed with work but in a social setting, he becomes extremely awkward. After I read a mini bio about Marissa, I joked with him that perhaps she’s his lost twin.

        This article has somewhat registered a new angle to my original thoughts. Thanks Penelope for sharing, very insightful

  4. Tim Chan
    Tim Chan says:

    Marissa Mayer seems to be doing quite well in spite of her supposed Asperger Syndrome – what difference do you think it would make if she did have it, and got help for it?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Honestly, I don’t have a good answer to that.

      But something I’m certain of is that many kids with Aspergers have difficult lives. And people point to men with Aspergers who have gone on to lead very satisfying lives as potential role models. And it’s important that girls with Aspergers have people to point to as well – women who share the traits that the girls with Aspergers exhibit who have had fulfilling lives.


      • Yahoo?
        Yahoo? says:

        Yes, she IS in charge of Yahoo… and since she has been in charge, Yahoo Mail doesn’t work as well, its design is clumsy and not user-friendly, and many links from elsewhere in the Yahoosphere are dead or constantly “temporarily unavailable”.
        Asperger or not — whatever her reason for being a tech genius — I hope things start working.

    • Autistic
      Autistic says:

      I get what these parents are trying to say, but they seem to ignore that they make insulting comments about Autistic people. Apparently despite her overwhelming success Mayer “has a serious disability” because she is Autistics. That’s making judgements based on a label, very bad judgements.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I love that you ask a question that actually adds to learning more for everyone. Thanks for that!

      It makes me think that if Marissa got help it wouldn’t be so much for the professional life that she has that would improve her situation. But it would be for the other areas that are not swimming in “geek culture” because in geek culture Asp. gets you ahead. It’s THEEE place to be and Asp. is not a disability but a spring board it seems.

      However, in other aspects like romantic relationships, being a mother, etc. it can be really hard. And if she got help that would be affected positively I think.

      Also, when Penelope talks about pointing to women with the syndrome so girls have someone to look to I think it helps a lot because it tells girls with Asp. “hey! life is so difficult but you could thrive in this environment if you wanted to!” instead of just staying quiet about it and many women feeling like there’s no place for them in the world where they can ever thrive.

    • Craig
      Craig says:

      Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are also strongly suspected (including by some experts) of being on the Autism spectrum. They seem to be doing pretty well too.

      In a technical line of work, the ability to have an obsessive, detail-oriented focus is a huge advantage, if you can deal with the down sides.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s an interview. In the spectrum of human social interaction, a one-on-one interview is extremely structured. For example, all questions must be verbalized in a way that a listening audience can understand, which quickly overcomes the number-one problem for people with Aspergers, which is non-verbal communication.

      Also, natural rhythms of give and take in unstructured conversation are very difficult for people with Aspergers. But an interview is artificially skewed in one direction which masks a deficit in one’s ability to duplicate the rhythms of give and take.


  5. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    all Penelope said was why she thinks this woman has Asperger’s. She is expressing an opinion; you don’t need to agree with her, but her words are very thought provoking and that’s the whole point of this post. She is also very knowledgeable on the topic so is qualified to make comments in this regard. Again, it’s just her opinion. It is meant to begin a conversation on girls with Asperger’s going largely undiagnosed. Like Daniel says, “Did you even read the fuc*ing article?!”

    • sign
      sign says:

      Yes, but she’s doing it at the expense of a woman she really knows very little about and is far from qualified to diagnose. There are ways to explore these issues without sensationalizing a stranger for your own gain. But of course those wouldn’t get click throughs.

  6. K3
    K3 says:

    I think you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (and that’s being charitable). Evidence: I can read Wikipedia, too, and anybody who posts sexualized pictures of her spousal abuse as pageview whoring has something more wrong with her than any spectrum disorder.

    Also, I’ve studied MBTI and I’ve known a lot of disturbed people in my life, so per Daniel above, Q.E.D.

  7. Regina Twine
    Regina Twine says:

    Wow you guys are killing me with these comments. Penelope made drew a very logical conclusion based on her opinion and her knowledge of Asperger. Does this blog post change my opinion on Marissa? No. Was the goal to bash Marissa? Doubtful. It actually just made me look up studies on women with Asperger Syndrome. Calm down people

  8. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    I didn’t intend to be inflammatory. Sorry. Wrong focus.

    Related to the post…

    I don’t know (or know that I know) a single female experiencing Asperger’s, and that is a little concerning. It is within the (somewhat) acceptable realm of masculinity to be reserved, thinking, less socially aware, less “feeling,” etc. But I have to wonder what kind of life the typical Asperger’s woman lives. It’s possibly one of the largest mystery demographics of any culturally under-represented group.

  9. my honest answer
    my honest answer says:

    I think the problem with this article is the title, rather than the content. The content is clear that certain traits of Marissa’s MAY point toward aspergers. The title includes much less uncertainty.

  10. Veronica
    Veronica says:

    If you google “famous people with Aspergers” you find almost all men. The only way to get women into the list is to start understanding and talking about what women with Aspergers look like. And they look like Marissa Mayer.

    As per your words Penelope, you are stating that she does have Aspergers, and why would you start a seed in people’s minds to question and analyze her? That’s the irresponsible part of you writing about this.

    There are 2 movies that come to mind of the lead actress who has Asperger’s.
    “The Snowcake” and “Mozart and The Whale.”

  11. Aurooba Ahmed
    Aurooba Ahmed says:

    You guys need to calm down. The title starts with ‘I think’, it’s just her opinion, it’s meant to raise eyebrows and make you think about Asperger Syndrome.

    Penelope did not bash or defame Marissa Mayer in the article, she just pointed to some traits Mayer has that are also traits women with Asperger would have.

    She is NOT diagnosing Marissa, my understanding of a medical diagnosis is that it would require a meticulous review of the subject’s history, do a myriad of tests, etc. Not really what Penelope is doing.

    Also, to say that this would hurt Marissa’s reputation is to imply that if she DID have Asperger Syndrome, that would suddenly make her less qualified to hold the position she does in her professional life, which then implies that you are prejudiced against people with this syndrome.

    There was not a single malicious sentence in Penelope’s article. And also, it seems you aren’t familiar with Penelope’s writing. This is her style. It gets the point across and it does so in a very blunt and often controversial way.

    If you don’t like it, don’t read.

    By the way, Penelope, you just inspired me to look up more info on Asperger syndrome as it relates to women. Great article. Also the first time I’m commenting. :)

  12. Interesting
    Interesting says:

    This is indeed an interesting article on what to look for in Asperger’s. But just because one has a disease does not qualify one to ‘diagnose’ it in another! If that were the case, we would all be diagnosing strangers based on our own health.

    Mayer is not typical of women, that’s for sure. But just because she is very different from other women does not mean she has a serious developmental illness.

    You could have discussed Asperger’s in a way that was not at the expense of Ms. Mayer.

  13. Robert Wenzel
    Robert Wenzel says:

    I like the article and the headline of it. Both fits brilliant together and I think Penelope is right. Why?
    First of all I’m an Aspie too (male version) and my background is psychology, deep understanding of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, computer science and especially artificial intelligence. So I’m thinking a lot about how people are interacting and what are the rules behind it. One of the most interesting questions for me was: Why do people meet always people of their own group? Let say, a geek from California spends her/his holiday in Alaska. Who will she/he meet there? Right, another geek. So the point is: We are always attracting as well as searching for stuff which fits to us; in an asylum people with the same disorder sitting always together in the same corner. So Penelope is searching for a leading female Asperger like she is. Very rare to find but Marissa fit perfectly in that scheme. Excellent article. Thank you.

  14. rags
    rags says:

    well .. if people cannot express themselves on a blog where else can they ??

    I won’t comment on whether or not the the topic of this post is any of the author’s business … but would like to say this to the author .. “I know you mean to express your thoughts, but please also do remember that certain things need to be handled more gently. You could probably have brought in a deliberate flavor of humor – so that people will not tend to take you too seriously here (I assume you meant all this in good spirits, more from an observation point of view, and that you were seriously not accusing / claiming that the Yahoo CEO is “diseased”.)”

    You have brought up a very interesting topic for some people to actually go digging for info about this …. :)

  15. Alm
    Alm says:

    Two points:
    As a mom of an Aspie daughter I am personally offended by above commenters who jump to the uninformed conclusion that being suspected of having Asperger’s is defamatory. As those who live with this on a daily basis know, many famous and highly successful people who’ve made critical contributions to our society, includiing Bill Gates, Einstein, Thomas Jefferson AND Penelope Trunk, are known to have been or to be on the Autism Spectrum. Those who have Aspergers have many talents and superior traits such as incredible focus, intelligence, honesty and complete lack of guile that neurotypicals lack.

    Second, it doesn’t take an MRI or an MD to spot someone on the spectrum. As a mom of an Aspie child for 18 years I have met dozens of other kids and families on the autism spectrum over the years. All Aspie mothers/ fathers experience the obsession with our own child’s issues, idiosyncracies and needs in a desperate and isolated mission to find every strategy available to help our child fit in, identify and celebrate their unique strengths and help them succeed in a very unwelcoming world of uninformed and ignorant “typical” people who lack empathy and the desire to understand more. Similarly we (aspie moms) can all easily spot another kid on the Spectrum from a block away and are typically much better at it than most Speech therapists, Psychologists and MDs. No offense to those professionals who are proficient and work on a daily basis with Aspies. Therefore, Penelope, being an Aspie herself as well as a mother of kid(s) on the spectrum, is uniquely qualified to ‘suspect’ a public figure of having Aspergers.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      Saying “I think someone has Asperger’s” is not deflamatory. It gives hope and freedom the those who have been diagnosed with ASD, and their families. Asperger’s is not like cancer, it is a condition, not a disease. Diagnosis is based on traits, not laboratory tests. I love hearing the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, are/were Aspies. I know that my son has the genius and ability to do something great, anything that he wants, but I worry that his social awkwardness will close doors. The general public needs to hear that Aspies are good for society, employers need to give these kids a chance to enter the work force.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! As a fellow mother of an aspie daughter I really appreciate your articulating my experience. I realized what was going on with her when she was 5. It has made ALL the difference for ME to know about her diagnosis. I feel lucky to have figured it out at such an early age for a girl, but pissed that it most certainly would have been diagnosed in a boy several years earlier. The diagnosis doesn’t change who she is one bit (fortunately b/c she is fabulous!), but it does allow me to better understand how she might be viewing things and then we can talk about what we each meant. I think the greatest problem for aspies is that their intent is often misunderstood and then they are treated accordingly with absolutely no idea about what went wrong. Basically, my job is to teach my daughter that people often say things that they don’t really mean and will interpret what she says with the assumption that she too may be lying, oh wait, “being polite.” sigh. Fortunately, she had picked up a nuanced understanding of sarcasm and facetiousness before I learned that an aspie “can’t learn that.”
      It was via searching for aspie and female that I found this blog and discovered a shocking dearth of information regarding the presentation of Asperger’s in females.
      I have gotten chastised by strangers and new acquaintances for “labeling” my daughter when only the most well-versed in ASD would pick up on it. As you stated, I can see it a block away in some other kids. If I see a parent who looks overwhelmed, I’ll often broach the subject of SPD (sensory processing disorder) since that doesn’t have the stigma of “YOUR CHILD MAY BE AUTISTIC!!” :) I tell certain people that my daughter has Asperger’s because who and how she is is one manifestation of it. It is not all hand-flapping and Sheldon (though I love him dearly.) If people don’t know what it can look like in more subtle forms, then even more girls will suffer. And by extension, so will the world since the girls won’t be able to work through the challenges to get to the myriad benefits.

      Early diagnosis is SO important. My daughter is now 7 and she is amazing at reading other people, noting the significance of voice tone, and judging sincerity. And this has been possible only because people like Penelope post things like this.

      So thank you Penelope and Alm.

  16. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    With so much focus on her success and what led her to get this far, it is unlikely she will get a chance or will want to talk about her personal struggles, everyone has them, Mayer isn’t going to be an exception.
    If only more people, especially women talked about their struggles during their successful timeframes, it would help out a lot of those trying to climb the corporate ladder.
    Anne-Marie Slaughter talked about her kids’ problems only when those problems came to a point when she knew she had to quit.

    We might have to wait years to hear Marissa Mayer talk about her struggles. But by then she will have had the can-have-it-all image sold so many times over, that it wont matter anymore.

    A big cheer for Marrisa Mayer though, what a fantastic woman.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      one thing you can be sure of: if a woman (and man by the way) talks about their personal struggles and insecurities and mental health issues while trying to climb the corporate ladder – or any ladder to a position which carries lots of prestige and power – they can kiss their career good bye.

  17. Chicago Pinot
    Chicago Pinot says:

    As long as we’re doing this, how about one M. Romney? According to your analysis, Dr. Trunk, numbers 1, 3 and 5 seem to fit, and if you consider his responsibilities as a Mormon as an extension of his “work”, you can also make the case for number 2. As for number 4, well, maybe he is the social butterfly on the job. Outside of that world, I’m not so sure.

    (BTW, none of this is meant as an endorsement of Pres. Obama.)

  18. Kathy Shaidle
    Kathy Shaidle says:

    I’m a female INTJ who is convinced she has mild Aspergers.

    I say “mild” because math makes me cry. However, I’m a poet — I see patterns (sometimes surreal ones) and create metaphors and similies.

    I don’t know if this counts as “systems” but my poetry (and other writing) is about noticing that A looks a lot like B.

    I have a funny (Hilary Clinton) laugh. I hate being photographed because, for one thing, I find smiling on cue (or smiling at all) unfamiliar.

    I am the person at every job who says, Wow is that book cover ever ugly or No, your book’s subject is too obscure (I meant boring) for me to get you on TV. But I don’t see what is wrong with saying those things because a) they are true — standards/measurements of “beauty” have existed since Aristotle and b) they asked me.

    It’s not that I don’t understand social cues (although as the only child of two only children, who hated other kid I picked up most of mine from movies and books) — it’s that I often don’t CARE about them. I care about stating facts and my (unconventional unpopular) opinions, especially (here we go again) somebody _asks_ me to in the first place.

    So I guess I’m really a sociopath, not an Aspie :-)

    • The Phantom
      The Phantom says:

      Having Aspergers just means that you feel like a normal person in a world filled with dangerous morons. Sentence most often said by Aspies to “normals” is “WTF is you problem?!”

      Marissa Mayer probably pulls her hair out all day from working with “normals”. I know I do and Kathy clearly does.

      Aspie girls suffer double what boys do. Boys can always fall back on hitting. Girls can only run and hide when the Normal Girl posse comes looking for them.

      • the pontificator
        the pontificator says:

        “Girls can only run and hide when the Normal Girl posse comes looking for them.” Yes. My Aspie daughter was harassed for most of last school year by a sociopath girl and her pals, whom she called The Borg . . . and the well-meaning teacher who was concerned about her ‘social skills.” I’m aspie, my wife’s aspie (and doesn’t know it) my best friends are aspie, my sister’s aspie . . . all I can say is normal people suck, and their social bullshit is a colossal waste of time.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        there are actually girls who are just normal, and do not fall into the group of “girl posse” or more correctly girl bullies.

  19. Larissa
    Larissa says:

    I don’t know that much about Aspergers but this article has actually made me wonder if I have it. I say this because, as you so rightly pointed out, most of the information about Aspergers is on men and so it’s difficult to place upon women. This is often the case with ADHD (rather than hyperactive, like little boys, little girls tend to be dreamy chatterboxes) and I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood. How does one go about being tested for Aspergers? Is there a test?

      • Larissa
        Larissa says:

        Well, I scored a 37 on that test so at some point I may try and get an evaluation to confirm. I’m actually relieved that there might be an explanation for, um, my entire life. In any event, I can see there a lot of people who are annoyed with this blogpost so let me take a moment to say thank you for writing this. :-)

        • Mark
          Mark says:

          I know that relief; I had that aha moment a couple of years ago reading about Asperger for the first time. It’s how I found Penelope, because I was unemployed for the first time, but had plenty of money and simply trying to find my way. I found i no longer left the house. I think you’ll find the experiences told by people resonate much more than the textbook definitions that struggle to capture. It manifests differently from person to person, like fingerprints, so don’t get hung up on details. Just go ahead and see what the diagnosis is. That’s what I did; it was rather drawn out and I saw three different doctors, prescribed betablockers. You’ll have aha moments if read Penelope’s stuff on the subject. I used to walk outside and around the building to go to the bathroom at work to avoid people. I would have to find alone time at company parties to get away from everyone. My understanding started here at this blog; I hope the feedback isn’t going to deter her from writing more about it.

        • Montina Portis
          Montina Portis says:

          I just took the test and scored a 44. As a young black 30 something woman, this is extremely helpful in my life.

  20. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    Penelope’s ideas are not the weakness in the article. The weakness in the article is the title and the slant. Alter those and she is really raising the stunningly important question: “Where are the women with Asperger’s” and “What do we look like” and “Why would it be good to know what women with Asperger’s look like?” The article uses Marissa along with some assumptions as supportive material for those really important questions.

    There are some factual errors in this article, but can we overlook that for a second? Whether Marissa Mayer actually has a diagnosis or should have a diagnosis is a means to the goal of asking what makes an ueberbrilliant woman and how do we find them/us? And most importantly, what does it mean to be a woman who has Asperger-like brilliance, with or without a brilliant career?

    Finally, since the diagnosis of Asperger’s is literally falling off the cliff into the abyss according to the very-soon-to-be-published DSM-V, what does it mean to be a brilliant young woman in a brilliant career who has no diagnosis?

    I would love to see an entry by Penelope on the effect of this diagnostic change on brilliant women. Not all “Aspie’s” will become included in the more restricive autism diagnosis. I am also intrigued by the accommodations afforded men and women with this diagnosis in such high-up places as google and facebook but also in other types of workplaces.

    You will find such “accomodations” in many business and work environments, not the least of which is in the government and the military. Employers see the benefit of providing accomodations to individuals in order to glean their brilliance in the workplace, putting up with their “qwerks.” Maybe this gleaning will work its way into less-well known cases of functionally autistic adults, and a quirky woman – perhaps a woman who is a touch less brilliant – may be accomodated with as much pro-business intention once the word used for the “diagnosis” is autism.

  21. NWGirlGeek
    NWGirlGeek says:

    Reckless blog.. I’d be concerned as the author, that you will probably receive a “recant” request from legal, as it could be perceived as defamation of character. Blogger’s have a responsibility to not make up facts. Unless Mayer, herself, publiclly states that she has Asperger’s to assum that she does, is unfair.

    While the correlation/observation is interesting. Why can’t women be equally smart as men and be considered normal? By your standards any smart, talented, powerful women whom is not an emoionally driven mess would be classified as having Asperger’s. Ironically, I am an ENTJ, with an INTJ son. While someone like you would probably think from a distance observation that we too have Asperger’s, I can share that we do not.

    Additionally, you might change your opinion, if you were part of the real tech world. Women in tech are not your average women, as we compete with men in a male driven culture. Come work at Microsoft and you will change your stance quickly. But then again, I doubt you would be able to survive our culture. Stay on your farm and hide.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      indeed, not every math savvy, smart woman who is good at recognizing patterns has Aspergers. It is not like you trade a math brain for a social brain – you might be better at one of them, but you can be equally strong at both.

  22. Emily N.
    Emily N. says:

    I think what a lot of you are missing is that “diagnosing” Marissa with Aspergers (which, in Penelope’s defense she did not do, she was purely speculating) is not meant as a dis toward Mayer.

    I am dyslexic and as an adult I’ve learned to harness it, and honestly I consider it to be more of a strength than a “disability”. Sure, I’m weak in some areas but I’ve learned to compensate for those, and I’m very gifted in others. I never saw it as a disability, just a different way for a brain to work (and who wants to be normal anyways. That’s boring. I’d rather have some special talents and suck at other stuff than be mediocre). Sure, school was tough growing up, but because i had been diagnosed I understood that I wasn’t just stupid, I just happened to take a longer time to learn certain things.

    Granted I don’t have Aspergers but I can see parallels in that you have weaknesses in some areas in return for being gifted in others. I think having Aspergers is one of Marissa’s strengths (she wouldn’t get to where she is without being a math genius), and if she can harness it and understand it she can learn to deal with the weaknesses. It’s all about understanding yourself and learning how to cope with your weaknesses, which is why diagnosis is key.

    • D
      D says:

      Dyslexia is a good example. There are a lot of very successful people who have dyslexia, and knowledge of them is likely comforting for people struggling with it.

    • James E
      James E says:

      Emily,I think by far you had the best answer and outlook on this subject. I believe most people hate on things & people that they don’t understand because society has been fed the wrong information about certain mental differences that usually result in Higher Intelligence .

  23. Daven
    Daven says:

    So many people consider Aspergers a “defamatory” label! Wow. Aspergers is not some kind of moral failing, for crying out loud. It’s not something to be ashamed of — not if you have it, and not if you don’t have it but somebody mistakenly thinks you do.

  24. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I can’t help but think that part of the reason you are diagnosing Marissa Mayer as aspergers is because you believe that all highly successful women are on some level like yourself. Another example: your recent post on how almost all women would rather stay home with their kids than work, unless they’re ENTJ, INTJ, or INTP.

    I know you will say you’re just looking at the data, but posts like these show an incredibly limited view of women’s aspirations and potential.

    I knew even before I clicked on this post that part of your evidence that Mayer is on the aspergers spectrum was going to be that she found it so easy to go back to work after having a baby.


    An ENFP who questions whether to have children at all precisely because of posts like Penelope’s, telling her that she will want to kiss her career goodbye once she hears the pitter-patter of little feet.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Rachel, I think you will be glad to hear that

      1. I think Sheryl Sandberg is very different than me. I think part of what makes her great is her ability to empathize with other people. She has great social skills.

      2. As an ENFP you will not want to give up your career. There is such an enormous difference between having singular focus on a career and having a career and having kids. And ENFP will want both. You will be bored if you are not living in the land of ideas, and you will feel sad if you are never with your kid. You can have both. Of course women can have both. You can’t get to the top of a field — any field– without singular focus, but most people who are not at the top of their field have made that choice – they just might not realize it. So maybe you’ll be one of those people who is genuinely happy with how your life unfolds.


  25. Alison
    Alison says:

    Regardless of whether or not she has Asperger Syndrome, this is a fascinating analysis of the personality traits of a successful woman.

  26. DO
    DO says:

    Do you have references for this statement? “There tends to be an inverse relationship between one’s feeling and sensitivity part of the their brain vs. their mathematical and logical part of their brain.” I know it’s a commonly held belief, and I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I think it’s an oversimplification. I’d like to see research backing it up before I accept this point in your argument.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Personality tests separate the two — asking many questions about are you this or this.

      In Myers Briggs, for example, you are either an F (you make decisions based on emotions) or a T (you make decisions based on facts). You can be an introvert (I) and T. You be an extrovert (E) and a T. But you can’t be a and F *and* T.


      • Gib Wallis
        Gib Wallis says:

        Hi Penelope, the MBTI comes from Jung’s studies of psychological types and Feeling isn’t about emotions at all.

        Jung describes it this way:
        “Sensation establishes what is actually present, thinking enables us to recognize its meaning, feeling tells us its value, and intuition points to possibilities as to whence it came and whither it is going in a given situation.”

        So Thinking isn’t really about facts at all — that’s Sensing. ENTJs typically aren’t too concerned with facts except when they line up with their theories.

        I haven’t found any studies on Aspies and the MBTI, but online people self-reporting their quiz results for both seems to put you in the minority who prefer extraversion. Most Aspies online think they’re INTP or INTJ.

      • tagryn
        tagryn says:

        “You can be an introvert (I) and T. You be an extrovert (E) and a T. But you can’t be a and F *and* T. ”

        Actually, you can. In the MBTI literature, when you’re tied on a trait’s score you get an “X” instead of the usual categorization, such as “F” or “T”. Not especially common, but it does happen.

        • Daniel Baskin
          Daniel Baskin says:

          It depends on what theories of MBTI you prescribe to. Being an “X” doesn’t fit in with the cognitive functions theories. When you do MBTI according to the cognitive functions, then you understand that everyone has a little T and a little F at least, just in different ways. The cognitive functions already buffer for this middle ground.

    • Maggie
      Maggie says:

      I feel like the libertarian culture of Silicon Valley discourages emotional intelligence, though. My father is from a traditional Midwestern background and he’s relatively kind and balanced despite having a Ph.D. in math from MIT and working as an applied mathematician.

  27. Erik
    Erik says:

    Anyone who is taking this as an attack on Marissa is missing the whole point of the post. Yahoo obviously knew everything written in this post when they hired her. The point is that we need to appreciate it for what it is so women with Asperger’s can get help too. This has nothing to do with whether or not Marissa is qualified to do her job – just like we can all agree Bill Gates did a fine job running Microsoft

  28. Chris Yeh
    Chris Yeh says:

    Diagnosing someone with Asperger’s is not an insult, and suggesting that it is reveals the prejudice of the accuser.

    I also find it interesting that seemingly everyone in the blogosphere can diagnose Mark Zuckerberg with Asperger without anyone raising a fuss; what makes the situation with Marissa Mayer any different?

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      it is not an insult, but it is a private matter – to discuss or not discuss in public is not the public’s choice. Or rather it should not be.

      • Chris Yeh
        Chris Yeh says:

        Whether or not someone chooses to reveal a diagnosis is a matter of privacy; expressing a personal opinion is a matter of free speech.

        If Penelope had received a copy of Mayer’s medical records and leaked them, that would be a privacy violation. Speculating about how someone’s mind works is no different simply because you can apply a label like “Asperger’s” rather than “people person.”

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          I did not intend to make a legal argument here, but one of respect of private matters. Yes, you can always make an argument of free speech, however, sometimes common sense and decency should be consulted before discussing someone’s medical diagnosis. However, I don’t feel particularly strongly about the current blog post with respect to Marissa Meyer but this is not the question. The question is whether Marissa Meyer would feel maligned – maybe she does not care, maybe she does not want to be labeled with anything… maybe she has Aspergers and simply does not want to be known as “hey, there is the woman CEO with Aspergers” but rather as “hey, there is the woman CEO who saved YAHOO. “

        • Alm
          Alm says:

          Chris and Penelope:

          THANK you both for your honesty and for educating the public about Autism, free speech and prejudice!

          Asperger’s is not a label. It is not a terrible disease. A person on the spectrum is one who has a brain wired in a different way that causes some social difficulties but at the same time affords the owner of that brain some genius or savant talents, often in math and science, sometimes in music, poetry and art.

          I am really frustrated so many people talk about Aspergers/Autism in a perjorative sense. As I said in an earlier post, I am the mother of a girl on the spectrum. She is first a person and a great singer, and I might add, a very loving, kind and respectful young woman who happens to have Autism. Each and every person on the spectrum is completely unique and different from every other. Each is a person first, with Autism, second. (Not ‘Autistic’, please.)

          It makes me angry that so many parents who know their children are different are so afraid of their child being ‘labeled’, and therefore hostile towards the so-called label of autism, that they neglect to have their child diagnosed. Let me tell you as a parent dealing with this for 18 plus years, avoiding knowledge about the way a unique child’s brain works and therefore, denying him/her all the available therapies and neglecting to become a tireless advocate for him/her will actually handicap him/her! If a child gets lots of social therapy early on, as did my child the minute she finally was diagnosed (late, because she is a girl and had advanced language skills) will help them towards independence and success! My daughter will attend college next year! I terribly proud of her successes and she is not afraid to let others know that she has difficulties with some social conventions but also to share her special strengths. Knowledge is power and denying your child the knowledge about their difficulties (believe me they know they are different) and the tools to deal with them is actually hurtful and is probably why so many Aspies face depression later in life after so much social failure.

          The misunderstanding of Autism shows ignorance the general public has about it, so thank you, Penelope for being a person with Autism in public who has been successful and who is unafraid to speak out about it and to educate the public!

          Anyone who suspects their child or themselves of being on the spectrum, check out the website http://www.socialthinking.com, Michelle Garcia Winner/international pioneer. There are people who’ve been trained in this therapy all over the US and outside so you may be able to find help wherever you are. This therapy actually teaches people with social deficits how to think socially and is the very best thing you can do for Aspies. Theory of Mind= the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes, is the central social, cognitive deficit all people with Autism have and is the source of all their social difficulties. It cannot be completely cured but steps can be taken to help them remedy this deficit, giving them the ability and the knowledge they need to navigate the nuanced neurotypical world.

  29. Ian
    Ian says:

    there is nothing remotely Marissa-bashing about this post; on the contrary, Penelope’s whole point in posting this was that we need to know what a positive role model for girls with Asperger’s looks like, and it looks like Marissa Mayer.

  30. Jeff Rogers
    Jeff Rogers says:

    I’m an Aspie, lets get that out of the way up front. So I really do understand the need to Advocate for oneself and others, but to ‘Out’ a public figure as an female Aspie? Why? Is talking about your OWN experiences as a female Aspie not sufficient.? Here’s a thought for you; perhaps she does have Aspergers, perhaps she stuggles with it everyday, perhaps she views it as a private matter. Who the f$%k are you to decide different for her?

  31. AnonLivingWithAspie
    AnonLivingWithAspie says:

    I’m currently living with my boyfriend and his two sons, and I’m about 100% positive both boys have Aspergers. Their mother def has Aspergers, but she doesn’t know it. She just hates herself and people she can’t control who want to stay away from her. She verbally abuses her sons and degrades her sons for possessing the same traits that she has.

    My boyfriend and I have talked extensively about this, about what to do, about how to handle this situation.

    What we decided to do is just love them, support them, praise them for their gifts, protect them, help them, show them understanding. They feel accepted when they are with us. They feel loved and they are becoming stronger and more confident as they get older.

    Children of alcoholics also suffer social ineptitude and a myriad of issues I can’t even begin to describe here. There are countless personality disorders and mental disorders permeating society, and it is only getting worse with every generation.

    Mayer is an accomplished woman. Her personality traits and behavior could be the result of any number of things. Is it really necessary to label it? Should we figure out which disorder would best suit her, and then slap the sticker on her and use her like a trophy? Who’s the lucky winner?

    Her accomplishments are her own. The fact that she may have Aspergers doesn’t mean the rest of you get to share in her success because you share the same condition. It doesn’t mean every person with Aspergers can achieve her same level of success.

    It’s not the syndrome….it’s the woman who has done this.

    I’m dealing with 3 people with Asperger’s, and the reality of their situation doesn’t improve just because you say Mayer may have Aspergers.

    • Ian
      Ian says:

      It’s not the syndrome….it’s the woman who has done this.

      nobody’s saying Asperger’s made Marissa Mayer great. what’s being said is that if you’re a girl with Asperger’s (and probably depending on what you aspire to in this life), Marissa Mayer may be proof that your Asperger’s alone can’t hold you back, and it may help you a lot.

      • AnonLivingWithAspie
        AnonLivingWithAspie says:

        I can’t agree. I have a niece who is a “gifted” genius, yet she has Kabuki syndrome.

        Labeling Mayer in this way does not help anyone, except it makes people with Aspergers feel better about themselves. It just sounds too self-serving and selfish, and inaccurate. You’re purposefully excluding other gifted females who just happen to have a different diagnosis.

        Also, the main reason why more women with Asperger’s aren’t choosing the path Mayer has chosen is simply because they don’t want to… like Penelope. She doesn’t want to be Mayer. She wants to be with her kids. I don’t see how looking to Mayer for inspiration works. I just don’t buy it.

  32. Shandra
    Shandra says:

    Interesting piece. I had the response a lot of readers had which was that Internet Diagnosing isn’t my cup of tea. I get that for some the label is a stigma and for others it isn’t, for some it’s not respectful to ask the question and for others it is.

    For me the central point actually isn’t about that at all but can a high-achieving woman be open about personal struggles or difference and still maintain her top-dog capital. I am guessing not.

    I’m not sure I agree with your conclusions but I think they are possible because Mayer’s moves are so scrutinized is because women do want to understand what her reality is in terms of her choices, capabilities, weaknesses and so on to learn more about high achievement for women. But we really can’t because Mayer probably has to keep a lid on her tell-all memoir until she’s done with the boardrooms of corporate America. Go her.


    I love psychology because of how reductionist it is and how everyone is an instant expert, diagnosing themselves and historical figures

  34. BA
    BA says:

    Whether or not this is a hit piece, Penelope definitely has some kind of fixation on Marissa Mayer. A couple months ago she whacked her claiming (falsely) that Mayer was planning a two-week maternity leave.

    Personally I miss the posts about Penelope’s own personal dramas, which now seem to be completely off limits.

  35. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    As someone who was late diagnosed (at 42), I think you summed it up perfectly when you said that we end up looking for “explanation for how they can be so incredibly smart and incredibly incompetent at the same time.”

    Hopefully people will be able to look past the apparent controversy of what you’ve written and recognize that the real problem is the difficulty girls and women have getting diagnosed and the real lack of female-specific resources once they do get diagnosed.

  36. Lynny
    Lynny says:

    Interesting post, Penelope. Who knows if this woman has it or not, but it makes an interesting article and frame by which to examine Aspergers. Good read.

  37. ronald
    ronald says:

    quit tarring her with your brush
    you reinforce my opinion of american women
    misogynist…. a man who hates women as much as they hate each other.

  38. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Actually, you’re a few days late with this post. Mental illness/disability awareness week was last week. But really any week is a good week since it’s a subject that isn’t discussed enough or truly understood. Marissa Mayer may or may not have AS. Pointing to the possibility that she may have AS is raising awareness of the illness and how it may be masked in females. The problem I have with this label in this case (and a diagnosis is a label whether or not it’s correct) is how it may be perceived by other people when it hasn’t been acknowledged one way or the other by the person to whom it has been assigned. I think I understand what I believe to be your good intentions but there is a fine line here. So there’s no surprise there’s a lot of comments on this post in praise of and condemnation of your hypothesis. I think being controversial, being bold, and exploring possibilities in your writing to make people think things that they otherwise would not have considered is one of your strengths.

    • Maria
      Maria says:

      Mark, do you have a blog of your own? Your comments on Penelope’s posts are always thoughtful and interesting, and I’d love to read your blog if you have one.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        Thank you Maria for the compliment. A few years ago I did write a few posts on WordPress.com to try it out and see what it was like. Of course, it takes more than a few posts to establish any sort of readership or find a subject or theme to feel really comfortable and explore to a great extent. There are times, though, I wish I did have one since it can be limiting to only comment on the post written by the blogger – lol. One thing I have learned from Penelope’s writing is how it’s possible to bring together what appears to be disparate sources and subjects into one post. So the option is always there to comment on certain specifics within the post or the overall message. So, to answer your question, I don’t have a blog now but I will to point to one if I decide to start one up. Thanks again.

  39. Julie Simmons-Wixom
    Julie Simmons-Wixom says:

    I always thought autism was much higher in males than females (3 to 1 diagnosis) but it sounds like maybe that’s not true. This theory about Mayer makes it seem logical that girls just go undiagnosed more often. A young girl from our town recently left her university and hung herself. It was very tragic and she was a very intelligent, driven young woman with a high IQ. I wonder now if she might have had Aspergers. Interesting and sad. Thanks for sharing this insight, Penelope. And to the commenters coming down on this post, take it as theoretical. I noticed comments about it being a radical thing to say and a misdiagnosis– I believe the word “think” in the title and the fact that Penelope Trunk isn’t claiming to be a doctor and having Marissa Mayer as a patient makes this still a relevant and interesting theory. She’s just pointing out logical commonalities as a person with Aspergers observing other people in the world.

  40. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Let’s put the “Marissa Mayer” example aside (even though I personally don’t see anything wrong with it) and focus on what is important in this article – it’s a global issue that women are not diagnosed, misdiagnosed, and even if properly diagnosed, still lack a proper post diagnostic support. From Guardian article: ‘Lucy Clapham, 25, spent years being turned away by doctors who insisted “girls don’t get autism” and told her to simply “act normal and read female magazines”.’ I am sure that’s not what you want for your daughters or spouses or partners or friends or yourselves. You can read the whole article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jul/13/girls-autism-sex-bias-children

  41. Gustavo Melo
    Gustavo Melo says:

    We all find ways to identify with people we admire. We find reasons to tell ourselves “I’m just like that too” or “that could be me”. Human behavior is such a nuanced thing that you can read almost anything into someone once you’re looking for it.

  42. Robert Williamson
    Robert Williamson says:

    I have to say I am dismayed by some of the snarky comments that have been offered.

    I interpret this whole post as a sypathetic discussion of a condition that Marissa Mayer may be suffering from offered by one who suffers from the condition herself. Who better to posit the question than a fellow sufferer? The post also serves to increase knowledge and awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome, its effects, and what people with Asperger’s Syndrome must overcome in their lives. Indeed, such was the case with me because I have had very little experience with people who have Asperger’s Sydrome – perhaps now I can be more sympathetic and understanding.

    Rather than being a “libellous” posting as some have suggested, I interpret this as very sympathetic to Marissa Mayer because it describes a difficulty which she may have had to overcome in her business and personal life. Penelope – thank you for sharing this – more power to you and more to Marissa Mayer too.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      I think this is what most people are objecting to: not the fact that knowledge might be gained, but that Marissa Mayer MAY have had to overcome difficulties. Nobody knows (well, somebody knows but not us) – an odd laugh and mathematical ability, pattern recognition as an intellectual strength, and a completely unproven photographic memory don’t seem a strong basis for a diagnosis.

    • Autistic
      Autistic says:

      “Who better to posit the question than a fellow sufferer?”

      I don’t suffer from anything. Who taught you to use that insulting language?

      • Robert Williamson
        Robert Williamson says:

        Sorry Autistic – I meant no offense. I didn’t think my sentence was insulting. Perhaps I should have said something like – “person with the same or similar tendencies.” What would you have preferred?

  43. Rebecca@MidcenturyModernRemodel
    Rebecca@MidcenturyModernRemodel says:

    Oh my gosh Penelope. Home run. I’ll be curious if Marissa’s people respond to you.
    a) I think you are right.
    b) It is good to bring visibility to this problem for women.
    c) It is the disease of geniuses, so not surprising if a genius has it.
    The comments on this one are WAY more entertaining then the post. But that is the case with all your good posts.

  44. edward houghton
    edward houghton says:

    Have a hard time agreeing with the premise of your blog—though I don’t know one way or the other if Marissa Mayer has Asperger Syndrome.

    I found your description of the disability interesting—however—it is hard to diagnose someone I imagine until you actually have a sit down with the person—regardless Marissa Mayer sounds like a tough person to work for—and it is not a gender bias as I think men with similar management traits are not necessarily admirable—Asperger or not.

    Judging by the comments—you hit a home run with this blog!

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