What success looks like at 20, and 30

Women in their 20s have an advantage over men in their 20s because all men want to sleep with women in their 20s. And women have power over men who want to sleep with them.

I remember having this power. The first time I wrote about it my editor had to call the magazine’s lawyer. Now it’s pretty well understood by women that it’s easier to get stuff done in the office when everyone wants to have sex with you. There is even science to back up the recommendation that women should flirt at work to get ahead. And there is precedent that when you are in a meeting with a smart young woman, you can switch it to a date if you feel like it. Women know this is the rule, and they’re on their toes at all times.

So I was floored when this ABC newscaster got fired for writing that she gets better interviews when the person she’s interviewing has a crush on her. I like her honesty. It’s a joke that she got fired for writing it. And part of me thinks that she got fired, really, for writing that sometimes she does interviews bra-less. The person who fired her is probably a guy who asked her out and got turned down.

When I was clicking through links about the woman at ABC, I found a paper by economist Alvin Roth concluding that it is impossible to be happier than your spouse.

This makes sense to me. All the research about what makes a happy marriage suggests that the marriage is a team. There needs to be a clear division of labor, for example. When couples know who does what chore and they don’t have to discuss it, the couples are happier—regardless of who does more. (And, seriously, we all know the wife does more, even if she’s the breadwinner.)

There needs to be a team agreement on how to fight—John Gottmann calls this fighting fair . And there needs to be a team agreement on who is taking care of the kids (And the most statistically reliable solution for keeping a marriage together is the woman stays home with the kids.)

So what I realize is that I needed to make a big shift in my life: from thinking that men are useful tools for getting where I want to go, to men being potential teammates. It’s a more difficult shift than I anticipated because if you’re really good at work in your 20s, then you are probably already leveraging your ability to make men nuts over you. And if you are really good at marriage in your 30s then you are leveraging your ability to be a good teammate and care about the guy’s feelings.

When I was winning the career game in my late twenties and early 30s I didn’t realize that the game changes when you have kids.

In my 20s I was running Internet companies and making tons of money and I was great. I was not great at school, but I was great at work, and I had a career that people respected. And the interesting thing about school is that in your teens you are on top of the world if you are great at school. But the game changes in your 20s and school doesn’t matter. Work matters. That was good for me.

Then I needed to have kids. I literally just woke up one day and wanted kids. It was like a brain implant or something. So I hired a headhunter for $10K to find me a husband and then I married someone I already knew. And then I had kids.

And then you know what happens? It doesn’t matter if you had a great career. Because the world of husbands and kids is about keeping things together. Did you get a husband who makes a lot of money? Great. You can stop working if you want. Did you get two kids before your eggs dried up? Great because fertility treatments are largely ineffective for older women.

So the game in my 20s was to have a great career. And I like to win, so I played that game. Then I realized, sometime around when my first husband was asking for a divorce, that if I didn’t pay attention to my family I wouldn’t have one. And that’s what matters in this next part of life. I don’t want a big career and no family. And I don’t want to have to choose, but really, you do have to choose.

I miss the time in my 20s when I was hot and young and all I needed to do was get some guy to take me to dinner and I could reengineer my career.

There is no grand solution or a magic formula to avoid problems in adult life. But there is a sense of knowing what’s coming and being ready for it. So women who have grand careers in their 20s can be a little less smug about success, and little less guilty about leading men on at the office. And women in their 20s who can’t figure out a career can find solace in the fact that their time will come.


6 Things to do in your 20s to make your 30s good…


81 replies
  1. Tatiana
    Tatiana says:

    This is really interesting to me.

    Maybe this is why I’m not further along in my career – among some other reasons. I’ve had a lot of jobs – mostly retail or odd jobs – and haven’t experienced much attraction from my coworkers. So whenever I read these types of posts, I have to remember that my experience is hardly reflective of what a vast majority of other people have experienced.

    I’m in my 20s (will be 27 next year) and I think A LOT about the instant, and overwhelming popularity that many pretty girls experience. I’m not pretty – at all – and am an INFP – so I lack the outgoing, Type-A tenacity that helps other people get ahead, and I’m not pretty enough to flirt my way to the top.

    This is probably why I’m still sitting around twiddling my thumbs; I don’t have ant advantages!

    Note: I saw a post that INFPs make the least out of all the types:(http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/11/06/this-is-how-much-money-youll-make-based-on-your-personality/ – and this other MBTI link is really great http://careerassessmentsite.com/mbti-personality-types-socioeconomic-infographic/).

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      I’m also an INFP and have odd whatever jobs. Never used being a [pretty] girl to my advantage. I don’t think us INFP’s even know how? Too concerned about others feelings.

      • Another INFP
        Another INFP says:

        I don’t know.. I would think the INFP’s intuition and awareness of others feelings would help in this regard

        • MBL
          MBL says:

          I think INFPs would certainly know how to, but wouldn’t be willing to capitalize on it because it isn’t “fair” or someone might get their feelings hurt.” Stupid, stinkin’ ethics always holding us back!! :D

    • Aimee Danger
      Aimee Danger says:

      Pretty girls are only successful until they’re no longer pretty. They’re also only successful in fields where the ‘pretty girls’ go. So I’ll concur that in STEM fields (or really any other career where you need brains) you are at a disadvantage trying to flaunt your goods to get ahead. Besides the fact that it’s bawdy (that means extra-tacky in a bar wench kind of way, in case you didn’t pay attention in school because you were too busy learning how to get boys to do your homework for you).

    • Joyce
      Joyce says:

      Hi! I’m INFP and asexual. I never experienced the sexual power that Penelope describes. I just see that people who commit infidelities or sleep around are not respected, even though they might have more money and power. For me, success necessarily includes good character.

      I just read the first chapter of the book Give and Take by Adam Grant. He classifies people into takers, givers, and matchers. He found that givers are both at the bottom and at the top of their careers. Life is not a sprint where you take everything you want ASAP but a marathon where we can help each other succeed over the long haul.

      The website has a test, just like Quistic. I’m 47% matcher, 40% giver, and 13% taker. It’s a good book (or first chapter). I hope Penelope can write about this book because she blogs a lot about “give and take” and seems a genuine giving person.

    • Jim Grey
      Jim Grey says:

      I’m an INFP and I’m a director in a software company, leading teams to deliver large projects. It’s a high-pressure job and I’m constantly balancing my team’s needs with the company’s needs. I manage to do it in full integrity with myself.

  2. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    This post resonates alot with me. I am in my 30s, have 2 kids and run a b2b company with my husband. Everytime we had a kid, it was like that cliche cycle of forming, storming, norming, performing. Except we have been stuck in the STORMING phase for a long time now. It really affects my career – when we are getting along I believe we can take on the world. When we are fighting I end up taking on different types of projects which I believe will lead to more independent work for me. I thought I needed more stability in my career but I needed more stability in my home life. Couples therapy has helped alot, and guess what? The outcome is to make a more clear division of labour and make a team agreement on who is taking care of the kids when. BUT, despite the statistics:
    1. He does more chores than me (cooking, shopping, etc)
    2. We really blend the childcare, more than anyone I know (e.g. he does 4 bedtimes, I do 3 a week). It is tricky but I can’t imagine a situation where it could work if only one of us did it.
    So for me the world of husbands and kids is keeping it all together, while making sure I have a space of my own.

  3. Maria
    Maria says:

    Do we really have to choose between having a good healthy family and a career? It just makes me sad. I am in my mid 30s with two beautiful kids, a lovely husband and a moderately sussccesful career. (no that I am a CEO or VP, but I will go fast further up if I keep the work pace I have now). BUT, it is hard to manage family and work, and I make more money than my husband, a yes, it feels kind of weird. So I guess, if I have to choose between family and career, I will have to quit my job and become some sort of entepreneur? I am an ENTJ, so yes, I have to be producing money. Otherwise, I am not content with myself. But this post makes me sad, because it kind of brings me back to earth and makes me think I cannot have both: a career and a family.

    • Tracy
      Tracy says:

      Hi Maria – I want to point out that Penelope refers to not having a BIG career. She does things as extremes so the careers she talks about are the extremes. So that means CEOs, startups that are going to revolutionize something, Presidents or Nobel prize winning work all require absolute focus which doesn’t work with the draw of kids. You CAN still have a career in the sense of you can still earn a living and do something you enjoy. I do and many people find ways to do it. Most jobs aren’t automatically setup for this so you might have to carve something out for yourself. You just have to be aware of the tradeoffs you need to make to do so.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        This is logical advice – that the lower earner stays home. But it doesn’t work in practice.

        Few marriages survive with a stay-at-home dad, and that’s because most men don’t feel comfortable staying at home while their wife earns the money (this might be cultural or societal or whatever, but it’s very difficult to overcome).

        Additionally, most women don’t want to be the breadwinner. At first blush it might seem okay. but the idea of the dad getting to see all the kid’s milestones while the mo is gone at work gets old for the moms.

        I’m not saying this is how it should be, I’m just saying that there is overwhelming research to support that while this arrangement seems like a good solution when the kids are young, as they get older the parents get more and more dissatisfied with a female breadwinner and stay-at-home dad.


        • Erin A
          Erin A says:

          So true! My husband always said he would gladly be a house husband and now stay at home dad but when we has laid off six weeks ago he wouldn’t even entertain it. Sure him not working impacts our lifestyle but we are more than fine on my salary. He even got punchy when I suggested that if this goes into November we pull her from daycare, stating that would not allow him time to job hunt. And yes he’s doig more around the house but not enough…he leaves a lot to the weekend when I’m home. Anyway clearly a rant but also a clear example.

          • Dee
            Dee says:

            This isn’t suprising. A lot of men think that “being at home” means being at home as a man where everything is taken care of by the partner. They don’t grasp that Being home as a woman doesn’t mean you’re free to play video games all day and go to the ball park when you feel like it.

            Who knew folding laundry was so boring? And Who knew it doesn’t fold itself?

          • L
            L says:

            I was engaged to a guy who had no career and was in a four month long “job hunt.” I was sympathetic knowing that yes, job hunting is a full-time thing, but I was fed up with NOTHING getting done around the house, and him disappearing to hang out with his friends in the evenings to “clear his head and unwind.” I was still the one working a stressful/time-consuming job, doing laundry, taking care of errands, etc. Our goal was to have him be the stay-at-home dad when we had kids a year or two later, so I also think he had this odd mentality of “why bother working now.” I finally got smart and broke up with him, and get this: in an effort to save our relationship, he was miraculously able to find a job literally 2 days after I dumped him (no joke). This is also just a pointless rant, but 1. I think it is a rare, rare man that has what it takes to legitimately take care of a home and know what a clean bathroom actually looks like, and 2. Put your foot down on the job thing, that seemed to work miracles when my ex finally realized something was at stake.

  4. Neha
    Neha says:

    This post reminds me of Pepsi Co s Indra Nooyi’s interview where she said that women cannot have it all and have to choose. She received a lot of (undeserved) flack for stating something honestly. I feel the same when i read your article. It is honest, and yes with time your priorities change, it is all about being in tune with what you need to do..from tools to teammates :)

  5. Logan
    Logan says:

    We have this misconception that women in their 20s can only have children. Of course fertility treatments don’t work for the majority of women. They are a billion dollar industry catering to the aftereffects of the havoc birth control pills wreak on the body which sends the ovaries into overdrive.

    This might be controversial but here’s a little secret- if you want to be fertile into your 50s, all you have to do is take extra zinc supplements. That’s it. It’s really that easy.

    Of course, zinc has nasty side effects- can make you gain weight, make you develop huge breasts, horomonal, etc but if you want children, zinc activates the growth horomones necessary for a successful pregnancy and delivery.

    The main reason why women become infertile is because they develop an estrogen dominance- typically due to the effects of birth control pills. Estrogen dominance also leads to cancer and development of cystic fibrosis, fibrocystic breasts, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and a whole lot of other ailments, including high blood pressure and occulsion of arteries.

    IMHO, I don’t really think women want to give birth to children in general. Who wants to get fat and stop drinking alcohol for 1.5 years? We want children when we find the RIGHT GUY, because his genes and my genes make sense.

    But for couples past their 50s, they can still have children thanks to human cloning. Of course, you need to have a lot of capital to undergo this method but a lot of homosexual couples have had children through a host mother, while utilising their own genes, and I think that’s beautiful. So I hope women don’t feel peer-pressured into having children before they are ready, before they meet the right guy, because who wants to pass on the genes of a guy you will eventually despite because he was Mr. Wrong?

    In this day and age, in 2014, it’s OK to be discriminating. We have so many choices. We really can have it all, if we follow our instincts.

    • Frances
      Frances says:

      Thank you for this comment about zinc, estrogen and infertility! I suspect it’s also our overload of estrogen that’s making us bitchy at work and in the home as well. I went off the pill three years ago (got myself a nice copper IUD), and I will read up on your zinc suggestion. I agree with you, everyone just needs to chill and bring their body and mind into. balance. I am 31, am with the man I’m going to marry (kind, handsome, strong, smart, caring, funny, loyal etc.,), and I have a great career (not a BIG career, but a great, flexible, well-paying IT marketing job that affords me time to train for triathlons and money to travel, save for my future and stay at 5-stars). The only reason babies are slightly on my radar is because all of a sudden my best friends from high school started popping them out and I feel left behind. But that’s no reason for me to have kids now, and perhaps not ever, especially when I see how much their lives have changed and what having kids did to their marriages (some of them married the right guy, some of them didn’t, but they are all on the rocks for the most part). If I really want kids at 40 I’ll do what the gay guys do, or better yet, adopt from this beautiful but broken world. And I’ll have the health, stamina, and appreciation to love them all the more, from all the years of fitness and travel experiences. But right now, I need to love myself because yes family is so very important but we come into this world alone and leave this world alone and if you can have a soothing relationship with yourself you will truly be at peace and bring more positive energy into the world anyway. So, I don’t think women should be rushed into having babies the way they are in their early 30s. Even though fertility is an issue, there is so much more at stake if you marry the wrong man. We need to know that we have options, as the commenter above has pointed out. Xoxo

      • AP
        AP says:

        Bitchy at work, take zinc, get fat… and women don’t really want to birth children?


        I’m ASSERTIVE, fuck zinc, I still weigh what I weighed in high school, and I loved every agonizing minute of pushing all three of my kids out. So BOOYAH!


        • Frances
          Frances says:

          Well, I know lots of women in their 30s who don’t want to birth children because they like their lives as they are now. Add to that the enormous cost of raising kids (it’s over half a million in the city I live in and I have no desire to move to the suburbs), the fact that the world is already overpopulated, and everything that being a full-time mom does to your mind, body and sex life, and you can start to see why some women might be rethinking having kids, even if there is a biological urge. If you enjoyed having your three kids and they still bring you that joy then I’m happy for you. I just know that’s not the life I want right now at 31. It may very well be the life I want at 35/40, and my post above was making the point that I would figure things out then, and that it’s not the right decision for me to start having kids now if I love my life as it is. For me, having kids and giving up this life is a far greater risk than waiting to find out I’m infertile. Because I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, adopt, take zinc, whatevs. It’s not worth it to rush into things just because my Facebook feed is suddenly dominated by babies. I highly recommend the book “All Joy and no Fun” for anyone thinking about taking the leap into parenthood. The book touches on all of these themes and makes the point that parenthood is not for everyone, and as Penelope always assays, you have to give up something to get something. Not sure I want to give anything up right now.

    • Erin A
      Erin A says:

      This is a wierd generalization and you are clearly a man. FYI I underwent fertility treatment for our first and had no previous hormonal bc use and I was early 30s. On the flip side my 40 year old friend got pregnant her first cycle off the pill in 17 years. Everyone is different and until you make the attempt you have no idea.

  6. Joe Fusco
    Joe Fusco says:

    For those of us old enough (*cough* — 50 — *cough) and lucky enough to keep our eyes open, we’ve realized there’s a line you can cross — from grasping and hoarding, to giving and sharing.

  7. Cay
    Cay says:

    I was a hot 20-something woman.

    As with many strong qualities, it had its pros and cons. Yes, it could quickly open doors, but once the dangling carrot turned into a bait-and-switch rather than delivery of advertised goods, the backlash was often more than enough to negate the potential for benefit.

    Not to mention that about 50% of the world (mostly same gender) tends to automatically alienate people who use this strategy. Which is terrible for business and relationships in general.

    So, it wasn’t worth it, in my experience, though I don’t think I could have changed how things happened very much, even if I knew it wasn’t worth it beforehand. I was expressive and quite confident. However, I lacked the total, very specific package of beauty that is truly productizable (supermodel, successful actress, etc.).

    By the time the game changed and it became clear that the big wins are a good marriage and a supportive network of female friends, I was observant enough to adjust. I don’t have kids yet, but I imagine that those key social goals are so valuable because they help improve the chances of raising children well.

    So, skipping the “advantages” of being a sexy 20-something woman could essentially function as more time to build up the platform for the more important stuff that will take place in the 30’s.

    Pretty, however, will always convey power and vitality.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      There is no way to skip the advantages. It’s in our DNA. I have written about this a lot – with research. The book Looks comes to mind. It’s in Amazon.

      We cannot help but give favorable treatment to better looking people. It’s so much in our DNA that even mothers give better looking babies better care – unconsciously.

      And we cannot help but identify women in their 20s as good looking. Being human is about fertility. I realize this is totally inconvenient and shallow or whatever, but millions of years of evolution is tough to overcome.

      Women in their 20s do not choose to use their good looks or not use their good looks. It’s just there. No one can help but react to it. And women are just being themselves. Their good-looking twenty something selves.


      • Cay
        Cay says:

        Good looks are just there, it’s true, and there are undeniable benefits to having them.

        That said, I think that good looks are overrated. To be fair, I also think that being overly intelligent is overrated.

        Please do not take this as a jaded opinion. I aim for a holistic perspective, and these things matter only insofar as they combine well with other strengths and help people reach their desired goals. For example, I think that a more comfortable family background would have been much more helpful for me than being born bright and pretty. I say this as a bright and pretty person, however.

        Interesting link below: Unsurprisingly, “Teen” is the top category viewed by men on Pornhub. The second and third categories, however, are “MILF” and “Mature”. I interpreted this data as showing that men find women of all ages quite attractive. Personally, I’ve found that the most beautiful women to me are in their forties. Youth may be unmarred, but it can also be uninteresting.

        I’m not ever going to try to interpret the top categories viewed by women, however.


      • Marie
        Marie says:

        I agree with Penelope that humanity is about fertility. That was her most poignant line.

        I want to add this. Being a sexy, 20-something woman got me nothing. I was hot enough to be on TV if I stayed at my best weight, but I didn’t come from a part of the country where I had access to that . My parents started too humble and I couldn’t leverage my looks early enough to do something that really extra super good looking people do.

        I was hated by women, and, living in the midwest, all the men were and still are scared of me. They want to sleep with you, yes, but in the Midwest it doesn’t get you far – they are shy and it actually workds to your detriment because they are so scared of being inapporpriate.

        I’m actually struggling with that being 30 now. Where’s my ring? Where’s my amazing job? My looks didn’t work in my favor. In San Francisco or New York, they would have, but here, they didn’t. Not even one bit.

  8. Heather
    Heather says:

    So true and this is very much where my life has been. I’m currently 43 years old and still look quite young, so that does open doors for me like it used to. However, I have to balance that my career cannot have the speed it used to when I was in my 20s as I now have a 14-year-old daughter and 5-year-old twin boys. I still work, my husband and I do share childcare and some housework, but it’s all clear cut who does what. Thanks for continuing to say it like it is!

  9. Denise
    Denise says:

    I agree with the “teammates” part of this article. You realize that the further you get in life, whether in your career, marriage and/or having kids, men should be teammates to assist in your life ventures (kids, career and life). This has been the case in my situation and our lives have been enhanced by knowing what our responsibilities each of us has.

    I admit though, sometimes I feel like I do more and have to much on my plate; but the truth is, I’m used to doing a lot as it is. That when I have to ask for help, even though deep down inside I feel like I can do everything. The key here is to simply “ask” for help in your daily life, especially when you have children. Life changes quickly and readjustment of priorities and duties is crucial to success.

    • Cay
      Cay says:

      The graphs provided in the link display information about opinions on looks alone. So, we are talking about packaging.

      Is the logical answer to that really to get married younger? My options were crap when I was 22. Sometimes it takes a little longer to maneuver oneself into a time and place where it is possible to find the right partner.

      The “looks best” chart is probably less related to finding a good marriage partner and more about “who looks fun to bone”. Which is related to fertility indicators, but now that humans live much longer than they historically have, dropping babies wherever we can isn’t the best strategy to ensure success in genetic propagation.

      Socioeconomic position is more important, and women who choose to marry later can often improve their own socioeconomic status and leverage it to gain access to more desirable partners, rather than settling for someone during the time period when they “look fun to bone”, which according to the link will end pretty quickly after the age of 22.

      As for leveraging looks for marriage, sure, it can help. Lots of things can, like personal initiative, location, and family values. I know plenty of plain-looking girls who have married very well. These marriages, more than anything, are set apart by shared values, which is widely believed to be the best predictor of a marriage staying together in the long term.

  10. Anne
    Anne says:

    Enjoyed this… NOTE – even if you marry someone with money, do not stop working, you can volunteer – do something with meaning. Because when you stop working your self esteem gets flushed. And honestly, as a parent – being a MOM is work, but sometimes we need more….

  11. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I hoped to get around having to make decisions by having kids as young as possible. I am 26 and I have worked out a situation where specialized early, so now I work from home, make great money, and I still get to see my son a lot.

    But you know what? All I’ve done is kick the decision down the road a few years. I haven’t managed to start a financially successful business venture yet, and unless I jump back to showing up to the office I won’t be fast tracked at any company much less my current one.

    I’m probably 3 years or less from hitting a career/income peak. Thankfully, this coincides with when my husband finishes up his PhD program, so I guess the logical thing is for me to stop my career then, and restart it in 20 years when my yet to be born kids are out of the house.

  12. ellen
    ellen says:


    Penelope – You have an excellent and admirable understanding of the way things work in the real world. But I want you to watch this speech about equal rights by Emma Watson, it’s important that you and every woman (and man) hear what she says.
    Please (re)think or think more deeply.
    Thank you for all you do.

  13. Kat
    Kat says:

    Don’t play the young-hot-20-something game when more than 30% of the workplace consist of women. They will hate you. You will not be included in their cliques. You will lose projects and autonomy from both men and women.

    Only when you are in a workplace with 70%~80% men, using flirting to get projects is a great idea. This is in my own opinion the best reason for women to specialize in a STEM field because you will be surrounded by mostly men.

    If you work in a cosmetics, fashion or a mommy-niche, you will live your life as The Devil Wears Prada. You simply have far better chances to flirt with men when you are configuring stuff in the IT storage room than selling makeup while caked in makeup.

    This is no longer the Mad Men era where polished, attractive women with high heels clacking on the marble floors would get glamourized. That’s because only few women work in corporate settings back then. In today’s workplace full of women, that would put a target on your back. The workplace game is sneaky – you have be not hated by women before you could get quality attention from men.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Can confirm: My sister is a super hot 24 yr old engineer. She had the upper advantage when choosing internships (multiple offers), in physics and calc class (all the guys wanted to help her study) and now she’s one of very few women at here office (designs military aircraft). It’s not all her looks as she is really smart, but we’ve had talks about how it’s helped.

      • YMKAS
        YMKAS says:


        Is it just me or do your comments seem to take awhile to post? You always have such great things to say, but they seem to appear after other people are already commenting and then they are dated for much earlier!

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      you are kidding, right? In a male dominated workplace like STEM playing the flirting card too often (like, more then once) will destroy your credibility in no time.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        That’s not necessarily true, while in your 20’s. My husbands first career he was a stock broker, so his engineering career is quite recent. A female classmate of his, mechanical engineering major, slept with professors and while I’m sure she was brilliant anyway, we all couldn’t help but wonder if that helped her get high honors. Also, out of my husbands graduating class of BSME’s she got the highest starting salary post-college of $85k. It worked for her and hasn’t held her back, plus she is smart on top of it! Maybe she’s an outlier…

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          I am not saying that the student sleeping with professors does not happen – but just because of the numbers (many students few professors fewer who sleep with students) it can only be an outlier. I am very doubtful that she can build a career just on sleeping around. The game is over once you are professor among professors (or professionals among professionals) and the only thing you can do is ruin your reputation if you turn meetings into dating games. The same holds in industry – there certainly are exceptions and I am pretty sure the crowd in silicon valley works by different rules, but I also think they operate more by fraternity rules than anything else.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Silicon Valley plays by its own rules. Agreed!

            I get what you are saying, but I think I’m under the assumption that you should have the goods to back it up otherwise it will blow up in your face. I don’t see how someone can get by, in stem or other professional environment, solely on looks. That can be demoralizing to the workforce. I have seen women get promoted for sleeping with the ceo back when I worked, before kids, maybe she was qualified for the job…but I think no one respected her, it was like she had the title but zero decision making and definitely no influence.

      • Kat
        Kat says:

        So what makes you more credible when you flirt in a non-stem field workplace? Flirting is never credible. The blog post is not about being credible, it’s about success built on shaky foundation. Play your cards right you might be able to use that shaky foundation to access a solid foundation elsewhere. It’s faster to argue against Penelope’s post and call the entire flirting scheme a recipe for disaster.

        In a women-dominant place you just get eaten alive while a male-dominant workplace the men will at least pause and wonder if the attractive women can scratch their itch albeit the little bit.

        This is exactly the kind of response I am expecting. When you think about things backwards you will debunk the caveats of “success.”

        It’s an ugly world out there. It’s very easy to be labeled as the “woman who spread her legs” even if the attractive women never meant to do things that way. So that goes back to the question “Is career a game?” If a person decides it is then there are plenty of unreliable ways to play it eg. brown-nosing, back-doorism, flirting and you name it. Flirting is easier to shame because it’s a strategy mostly employed by women.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          There *is* a game being played. My spouse knows how to play it better than most people. He doesn’t have to flirt with anyone, but I think women should be able to get ahead through flirting or whatever, as long as they are also qualified. Which I think I’m under the assumption that is what’s being implied in PT’s post. Maybe people won’t like that, but a lot of men don’t like how quickly my husband gets put in an executive track when he hasn’t been at the company as long as others. It’s a personality driven game most of the time, coupled with politics…if you team up with the wrong side of the office politics then you’re fired when your boss gets fired. It sucks but I’ve seen it happen to people I know. It’s helpful to find a blog that helps you navigate your way through it all like this one.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          just commented on the workplace environment I know only too well – and one which is male dominated.

  14. jessica
    jessica says:

    So I was floored when this ABC newscaster got fired for writing that she gets better interviews when the person she’s interviewing has a crush on her. …….

    I find that when people get fired frivolously like this, it’s never the actual reason they were fired. The boss has been waiting for what I call the ‘easy out fuck up’ to then do the lay off. So she’s been riding a thin line for a while (without knowing probably).

  15. Jess
    Jess says:

    Wow – Penelope I truly enjoy reading you. I agree with you on many things, and don’t agree with you on many things; this post is a bit much.

    The entire thing is degrading and sexist to women AND men.
    It is dripping with an attitude of using one another for personal gain. “It’s all about me and what I want.”
    Women – use your bodies, use your looks, use men, use others’ weaknesses.
    You can still have it all, don’t feel guilty for trampling people to get ‘success.’
    Nevermind that using people IS FAILURE – the opposite of success.

    It’s easier to get stuff done in the office when everyone wants to have sex with you? Really? What would be your reaction if a man wrote that?

    Turn a meeting into a date if you feel like it? Do you see how awfully close to sexual harrassment this is?

    Even your big “switch” is self-centered: “I woke up and wanted kids” – like you have a right to another human being.

    A family matters in the ‘next part’ of life – I have to point out that your family ‘mattered’ before it mattered to you specifically.

    The person you’ve spent all these years forming yourself into is the person you have given to your family – was it a ‘successful’ formation?

    I still love you and will still continue to read you. You are charming and crazy and I wish you well.

    • John
      John says:

      And you are smarmy and condescending. Sorry a species of hyper-intelligent monkeys isn’t as saintly as you were told, but truth is truth.

  16. Alex smallwood
    Alex smallwood says:

    It’s doesnt’t have to be about flirting. Being young and pretty means being heard. Which means getting a foot in the door. THATS why those chose Emma Watson. As my gay fabulous designer friend says, “just be pretty, pretty always wins.” My story…I’m a 40 year old straight very skilled hairdresser in the biz 20 yrs. In my 20’s I was the hot hairdresser. Calling the shots. Because I take care of myself, I was able to maintain that status until about 38. I’m still doing hair but it’s a whole different game. No swarms of women beating down my door wanting the latest and greatest.

    “Got to be good looking cuz he’s so hard to see”
    -John Lennon


  17. karelys
    karelys says:

    Im thinking that 40s (if you had kids by mid 20s) and 50s (if by your 30s) is the time when things circle back on your favor if you play your cards right. By then you should have honed skills well, get to know yourself really well, maintained yourself looking good because you understand the impact of looks and social graces…but most importantly, your kids don’t need your constant attention like when they were little and your spouse and you have more alone time to invest in self development so you become hot and interesting to each other rather than bored and boring.

    I hate typing on my phone. I’ll come back later because this comment section is going to be a party!

  18. mysticaltyger
    mysticaltyger says:

    Correction: All STRAIGHT men want to sleep with women in their 20s. Probably 10% of men are gay, and we definitely don’t want to sleep with women.

  19. Dee
    Dee says:

    The point is that you’re not intimidating when you’re in your 20’s. You’re just insecure enough for people to want to help you and most people at work are your seniors.

    The bitchy crowd never gets anywhere at work. Men see if they freeze someone out and then help that girl EVEN MORE.

    I turned 27 a couple of days ago and I realized that if I wasn’t recently married and currently pregnant- I would have freaked out.
    Even as pregnant I am peaking looks-wise. (Not really showing yet).
    But I know that that would last a year or two. I was single 1,5y ago!

    Luckily I’m very observant so I noticed who was single and who was not and compared their lives and careers.

    The single 29y olds, that hang out with 35y old singles and those 2-3 woman at work that are over 40 and single. Yikes!

    I actively avoided that crowd because I didn’t want to be seen and associated with them.

    I met my husband at work and his spontaneous comments about that crowd just confirmed my thoughts- they are never going to find a relationship and they’ve turned unattractive because of their behavior. He asked a lot of questions wether I hung out with them or not. (A part their MO is acting like they don’t want a relationship because they have such great girl friends, even if it’s obvious that they would abandon ship at first sight of land.)

    Some girls actually attacked my husband when we announced our engagement
    “don’t get her pregnant at once- let her have a career first”.

    These comments made me so mad. As if he’s “letting me” do anything and as if their choice to booze up every weekend is somehow superior?

    After getting together with my husband we quickly became a great team and together we relocated ourselves within the company to positions that would benefit us as a couple (steady schedule, flexible work hours) and career-wise, letting me have a position where I get a lot of in house training and the actual work is stress-free so I’m managing perfectly even with my pregnancy.

    My mom always said, you’ll have friends, but I’m your best friend because I want the world for you.

    She said this to warn me of jealousy and bad advice given out by coworkers and friends.
    Now my husband is my best friend and because we are a team- he wants me to have everything i want and his advice never has an angle.
    Thank god I was mature enough to understand that him saying “I don’t want you at work when I’m at home” was love and care and reality, not a man trying to squash my career as the girls at work wanted it to sound like.

    The women that didn’t put their 20’s to good use are still stuck doing the same thing. And they’re miserable.

    If you’re past 22, avoid the single girls crowd (trust me it’s not cute anymore). Make sure you know what kind of job you want for yourself and work to position yourself better. (Not reach it, you don’t want to have arrived already before you start having kids).

    When you find a guy worthy of marriage – prioritize that! You have the rest of your life for work. And a small window of opportunity where the good husband material starts to show and starts to disappear.

    Get married, get kids now if you both want kids “at some point”. Don’t waste time on people you don’t have a future with.

    Nurture your relationship.

    Kids are kids a short period of time. You have about 40 years left in the work force.
    The job will still be there later and it’s not until later you’ll know exactly what you want out of a career anyway.

    A night shift can be fun when you’re 20 and miserable at 30.
    Plan for 30. And moisturize.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      so, just focusing on one statement which I am curious about: why do you actively avoid single women over 40? They might be widowed, divorced or single by choice – why the generalization of people to avoid? It is work after all – ability to do the work should come first in your assessment with whom to work (assuming here to hang out means those are the people you also want to work with most closely).

      • Dee
        Dee says:


        It’s not the single and 40 that makes me avoid them. It’s the single woman clique at work that’s past 25 that I avoid. (Younger girls are naturally single and most are partying and are not looking to settle down.)

        And by hang I mean eat lunch with and socialize with after work. I don’t avoid them professionally, I avoid befriending them.

        When you are a single 24 year old girl these cliques want to befriend you.

        Their behavior is all ‘sex and the city’ but not in a nice way. It’s all fake.

        They give you bad advice because they don’t want you to settle down, they sabotage you in any way they can and are the first to accidently post an ugly picture of you on Facebook with a drink in hand.

        Woman that are 40 and single and normal don’t only hang out with singles and glorify that type of life.

        A guy looking for a wife avoids these women since he’s looking for someone that acts as if they’re interested in commitment. Not someone that puts back stabbing girlfriends ahead of him.
        These women incurage you to bad-mouth your partner acting all concerned when they’re actually enjoying anything wrong with your relationship.

        And honestly, this goes for guys and girls. If you’re not in a relationship by a certain age there is something wrong with you. (And don’t have a “good” excuse, … Widowed, husband left you for his secretary…)

        At least in the sense that you’re probably not marriage material.

        I dated a few guys 15 years my senior in my early twenties and didn’t think much of the age difference.
        But I never asked myself why they, with a 15 year head start, hadn’t managed to settle down yet.
        I soon found out! Not to bore you with the details.

        I’m assuming you’re a guy, so if you’re looking for a wife, who would you avoid and who would interest you?
        I doubt it would be the sex and the city – wannabes.

        (English is my third language and I’m writing off my phone so excuse any grammar/spelling misstakes)

        • Jess
          Jess says:

          Wow, this is really good advice! Thank you for your advice on ‘frenemies’, the ones who are the first to post an ugly FB pic of you, to give you bad advice etc. I’ve definitely had a few of those in my life and the FB pic is a great test to see who is actually on your side, and who is just using you. I like what your mom said about wanting the best for you. I hope you pass that love onto your children! All the best!

          • Dee
            Dee says:

            Thank you Jess,

            good to see that someone recognizes what I’m trying to describe.

            The thing is that you and your husband have to be a team. If you’re a team, you don’t have room in your life for fake friends (frenemies :) ) or people that don’t contribute in some way to your life.

            So investing in having 10 party friends is a bad investment. Invest in a good realtionship that will last your entire life and where you know you have common goals.

            I wish more people would spend time hanging out with siblings and nurturing those realtionships. Siblings are friends you’ve always had and always will have in your life. A natural bond.

            Invest in what lasts longer than your 20’s.

            // Dee

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          I think you are vastly overgeneralizing. This is a clique in your workplace, and this type of groups probably exist in many places but throwing every single woman (and man) in the same bucket is simply wrong. I actually think this type of behavior is pretty independent of marital status – if you are such a personality type (backstabbing, constantly trying to play your colleagues, dishonest, etc.) you will be the same type of person once married. And I dont’ think there is anything per se wrong with an unmarried man or woman of any age even if they don’t have a good excuse in your eyes. Maybe they focused on career, or had a truly bad experience early in life or are independent spirits.

          • YMKAS
            YMKAS says:

            Also, most of us know you are a woman, not a man! That’s weird that someone would say that when you address being a woman in a male dominated field. I honestly don’t care about someones marital status when I’m looking at forming friendships. Backstabbing people rarely change those habits.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            not sure why you would think I pretend to be a man from the previous post. Indeed, I am a woman as you correctly surmised. Not sure why you are mad at my post – I am saying exactly the same thing you are stating: I think marital status is irrelevant – it is the person which counts, and the work one does if it is about the workplace. I was responding to the generalization from the previous comment about how single women should be avoided in the workplace, and the comment that if someone is single at a certain age that something is wrong with them. I really don’t care if someone is married, not married or whatever – it is the character and work which counts.

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            I’ll probably regret jumping in here and may be mistaken since the “reply” tabs get wonky after awhile, but..

            Redrock, it sounds like you are mad at YMKAS. I think you have mis-read her comment. It seems to me that she has your back on this one. She was expressing surprise that someone would assume you were male.

            (slowly backs away just in case)

          • YMKAS
            YMKAS says:

            I was having reds back on this one. :(

            When I read dee’s comment she said you were a guy. So I kind of replied to her but did it in my response to you.

          • Dee
            Dee says:

            wooow, guys, I have no idea who is and who is not a guy. It doesn’t even matter.

            Of course I am generalizing. The point of that is to open up your eye’s to group behaviour. Generalizing allows the mind to compartementalize and make sense of the world. I never stated that this applies to EVERY single woman or man, I gave examples of what is an “excuse” I didn’t list every excuse.

            As I also said, English is my third language so maybe I’m using the wrong synonyms to be properly understood.

            I meant there is something wrong with the person AT LEAST IN TERMS OF MARRIAGE MATERIAL.

            The point is simple. If you are a free spirit, enjoy your freedom and that type of life then you’re probably bad marriage material. Marriages are about compromise.

            My advice is to make sure that what you are after in life, what you want, should be the same thing as what you are signaling out to your peers through behaviour, association and such.

            If you want a stable commited relationship, don’t act the opposite.

            Something like the old, “don’t dress for the job you have but the job you want”.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        disclaimer: wrong order of reply – just wanted to add that I am not mad at anybody :-)

        the comments got jumbled in their order ….

    • Morgan
      Morgan says:

      I agree with what you said about “avoiding” certain people. Over the past year or so, I have noticed those single 30/40 somethings that are divorced or never been married. They have a certain “attitude” and “bitterness” about them. They hang out together, blow up my instagram & facebook newsfeed and pretend they are so happy. I do not believe that a woman can be happy AND single long term. I’ll be 25 next week. I am single. I enjoy spending time with myself but ultimately I want a husband. Girls are nothing but DRAMA!!! So my mom is my best friend. I prefer to devote my energy towards my career and husband hunting :)

  20. Dale
    Dale says:

    Flirting at work is dangerous territory; but a healthy woman in her 20s can go far acting professionally. The men are willing to help her to impress her and she can learn a lot about what is going on because they will brag to her about their successes. As far as older women are concerned, act like the woman they want their sons to marry, not like the woman they are afraid their husband will run off with.
    As for the pron sites; those ‘teenagers’ are almost all in their twenties, and so are a lot of the MILFs.
    Remember also that the prime customers for porn are losers at love.

  21. jestjack
    jestjack says:

    Wow….this article caused me to pause and re-examine my motives through out my working life. For the life of me I never recall wanting to have sex with a pretty female co-worker and that being the reason I offered assistance in the work place. That’s just creepy. In addition, I have daughters and I will tell you, pretty looks may open some doors. But in todays workplace performance and critical thinking rule the day. If you can’t do the job…pretty or not…you’re history…I appreciatted the article but found it troubling…

  22. Rid1.S
    Rid1.S says:

    I agree with Jestjack. It’s more than just looks that you are hired for in today’s world. Being a critical thinker and formulating, your own opinion and applying your knowledge is what every employee needs to be successful irrespective of their gender.
    “There needs to be a clear division of labor, for example. When couples know who does what chore and they don’t have to discuss it, the couples are happier—regardless of who does more.” This is so true. Also couples should try and balance family and work. After all the best feeling would be to share your success at work with your family than alone

    • Kate
      Kate says:

      Yes that is true. Being a female and being the owner of my own business is very difficult to manage both my work and family. I hardly get time with my kids, or my husband. But splitting the chores together makes our lives much easier and gives us more time as a family. And yes the best feeling is coming home and sharing your success with your kids and hubby.

  23. t
    t says:

    Geesh. When I was a hot 20-something, I hated when people looked at me like a piece of meat. I have always been able to tell if people are ‘listening’ to (rather, lusting after) me because they think I’m hot, or if they really appreciate my mind and points-of-view. I don’t care if it keeps me from having a ‘great’ job and/or ‘great’ money, I demand respect for my mind and my ethics; and I know I’ll always end up working for authentic people as a result. And to the partners of aforementioned ‘lust-ers’, when you’re around, I always go out of my way to focus my attention on you rather than the lust-er. It’s called respect.

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