Here’s why there are no women over 40 in your office

The US is one of the only countries in which working extremely long hours is extremely rewarding. Other countries tax very high income to the point that it’s not worth earning. In those countries, it’s possible to take care of children and have an interesting job. Because even if a job is really interesting, people don’t work very long hours.

In the US there are no good part-time jobs. Jobs that pay solid middle-class wages require at least 50 hours a week. The best jobs go to people whose only focus is work, and those people hire people like themselves. (Remember Marissa Mayer not allowing anyone to work from home?)

So the New York Times maps out for us how college-educated women marry people like themselves, and they have kids, and someone has to take care of the kids, so one person works long hours at the office and one person works long hours with the kids. In marriages between men and women, women choose to stay home. This is not misogyny or feminist backlash. The Atlantic describes this situation as late-stage capitalism forcing us to survive. (I lost the link—it was in the last three months or so. But I’ve been saying it over and over again.)

The math is terrible for continuing to work. You have to get off work early on a snow day. You have to stay home on a sick day. Or you have to pay for high-quality childcare and that will cost as much as you could make doing a job that is 40 hours a week. It’s not worth it. And if you and your partner take time off for kids then neither of you can get to the high-paying jobs.

So here’s the question: By the time a kid is in third grade, almost all college-educated women have left their job—who are the women still at the office even though they have a grade-schooler at home?

Women who are raising kids alone. Only 2% of college-educated women fall into this category because college-educated women know that divorce is financial and logistical horror for the kids. I have never talked with a college-educated woman who is raising kids alone who does not have autism. Part of the reason for this is women with autism choose men who have autism and those marriages are hard. But also, women with autism don’t feel the social pressure to put the kids first like neurotypical women do. (Note: 90% of women with autism don’t know they have it. I’m telling you they have it because I know.)

Women who are INTJs or ENTJs. These women are born to work at a company. These women are the very top of the top performers in the workplace. But they are 1.5% of all women, which is statistically irrelevant, really, but so is the number of women in senior leadership after age 40, so it all makes sense. On top of that, most women who are NTs have autism. This is because autism is like having an extreme male brain, and NT is a personality type combination that is almost exclusively male.

Women who have autism. The workplace is a contest to see which company can make the most money. The workplace is linear, competitive, confrontational, and undervalues emotional connection. Neurotypical women excel at collaboration, and they tire of the environment that places little value on their skills. Women with autism notice around age 40 that the only people left at the office at their level are men, which is a relief; relative to men, women with autism appear to have the social skills to collaborate.

Of course, all women should be able to choose to work in the corporate world. But what happens is that the loudest women are the ones who are also most suited for the male work world. So neurotypical women feel the pressure that they should want to work, but they don’t want to work. I mean, they’d like to work if there were jobs they wanted, but neurotypical women don’t find jobs they want.

Wait. Are you a neurotypical woman who thinks you want to work? Here is a test:

Question 1: Have you ever enjoyed any job you did?

If you answered no, then we are done with this test. If you answer yes:

Question 2: Why did you leave?

If you answered you were fired then this was not a good job for you. Obviously. And you have no idea how badly you were doing in the job, and you probably wouldn’t like the job if you knew what you’d need to do to do well in the job.

If you answered that you left because there was something wrong with the job then you did not actually like the job. You liked the job if you could change the job to get rid of things you didn’t like.

Question 3: What if you could wave a magic wand? 

Imagine you can have any job in the whole world, right now, what would it be? Rules to keep in mind: you cannot wish the salary to be different. The game is to imagine you are taking a specific job that exists right now, in reality. Also you will have to do the job with the knowledge and skills you currently have, and the personal responsibilities you currently have (though if the job pays well enough you could use the salary to hire someone to take over those personal responsibilities).

Very, very few people can point to a specific job they actually want.

But, given the choice of a job you don’t really like and staying home with kids, men choose the job and women choose the kids. This is not theoretical. This is 30 years of data. And the research about women with autistic brains gives us an understanding of why there is a disparity between men’s and women’s choices in their careers.

If you remove all the women with autism from the picture, what you’ll find is that it turns out women don’t want to do the life men want to do. Women just want more options than being second-class citizens at home with kids. Women were sick of being treated like children. But you shouldn’t have to earn money to win the right to be treated with respect.


74 replies
  1. Anna
    Anna says:

    I’m an ENTP female and I’m pretty sure I don’t have Asperger’s although I suppose I could be wrong! Are the Js more likely than the Ps?

    • Cassie Boorn
      Cassie Boorn says:

      I am an ENTP woman too! We are actually one of the rarest types, because most ENTPs are men. We have a lot of traits that society sees as more masculine. Most ENTPs LOVE to work. :)

  2. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    Where does the data that almost all women have left their jobs by the time their children in 3rd grade come from? Over eight years hasn’t everyone left their job at one time or another?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Not left their job for a new job. Left their job like dropped out of the workforce. You can find the statistic at the Bureau of Labor for the US. The Economist writes about the tend a lot in Europe. It’s pretty standard data at this point. Most of the research from Universities focuses not on if it’s happening but why does it happen.

      Harvard just published a big paper on this topic. I can’t remember the authors, but it’s from the business school. You can google it. But my point is that it’s a very uncontroversial assumption, which is why I didn’t link. And I am always shocked that when I talk to new mothers they have no idea about this data.

      I think knowing the data would take a lot of pressure off a lot of women. It’s a fool’s errand to try to have a career and raise children. Look at the list of women who used to be poster-girls for career and kids: Sheryl Sandberg, Priscilla Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer. They are all spending the majority of their time with kids right now.


      • J.E.
        J.E. says:

        How much easier would things be in the U.S. if health insurance wasn’t tied to full time employment? As I’ve mentioned in other comments on this post, there are a lot of people working full time not necessarily for the salary, but for the health insurance. It seems much easier in other countries that have strong social programs in place for their citizens. Yes, the people may be taxed through the nose, but having a large savings “just in case” isn’t as necessary because of those programs.

        • Jan
          Jan says:

          Definitely: linking health insurance to a full time job is ridiculous. I lived in Europe 3 years and saw many ads for job-sharing and part time jobs. Here is in the US: no. There, the moms have freedom to work a balanced part-time position but in the US, it’s all or nothing (or part-time for little pay). And I’ve noticed much longer hours of work by the dads in the US. I don’t know if I have Aspergers but I tested years ago as ENTJ when I had my own small home business while home-schooling (age 37). After my husband died though, and my kids were in school, I re-tested as ENTP (age 45). I didn’t know these are considered ‘masculine’ types. I was never ‘at the top’ of a job; just a secretary or Executive Assistant, even though I was supposedly the “CEO” type and I have a BA degree. That makes me doubt the validity of those tests.

          I notice that widows aren’t referred to in the article. After hubby dies, it’s essential to step up and care for the kids no matter what type you are, and yet I’m not working full-time so that I can be with them more. Mine are boys so maybe that brings out the ‘masculinity’ in me. I haven’t worked full-time since the oldest was born 16 years ago… so much for those types having to have a job. I am never bored; I stay very, very busy. And I didn’t have any trauma growing up.

          I wanted to have kids but waited til 11 yrs of marriage (from age 21 to 32) and am so thrilled to have my two. I knew I’d want to stay home & raise them so I purposefully didn’t get a Master’s degree as I considered, because the higher income would’ve been a temptation to keep working for, conflicting with what I knew would be best for the children. I’m so curious what result a coaching session would bring!

      • Andrea
        Andrea says:

        You add links for everything else, why not that “third grade” stat? I wanted to tweet it with a link to this article, but now I’m suspicious because I’m a google queen and can’t find anything supporting it.

        • Craig
          Craig says:

          I have found that when PT makes a sweeping claim without links, skepticism is warranted. For example, when she claimed that there were “conversations all over the Internet about how if you are going to die soon then you are not voting to protect the future so you shouldn’t get to vote” in a prior post, I couldn’t find anything on google that supported this assertion.

          Regarding the “third grade” stat, in my professional career going on 20+ years, I have known maybe 2 or 3 women (in companies of varying sizes with roughly 50/50 split in number of employees between men and women) that quit the workforce to raise their children. Am I to believe PT’s assertion, or my lying eyes? I tried to do the same google search you did, and all I came up with was this from The Atlantic: “43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time.” That seems high, but it certainly isn’t everyone….unless we are to believe the remaining 57% of women have Aspergers. In another Forbes article, we see that “of the United States’ 44 million mothers, over 75% work full time.” But according to PT, I shouldn’t be seeing them in my office.

          • Ibti
            Ibti says:

            I’m an INTJ woman in her early forties, ramping onto career after being a SAHM for 10 years, during which I kept sane by studying and working part-time from home. My partner is doing almost all the childcare and I enjoy being able to focus on intellectual pursuits.
            I must just add that the American work culture is just sick. I live in South Africa, and some years back worked for an American company “taking advantage of” the currency and wage differentials. I distinctly remember us getting side-eyed for taking a full hour lunch break, away from the office, and being taken to task for being a “clock-watcher” (i.e. leaving exactly on the stroke of five). Flexible working is gaining traction here, but I get the impression the US is slow on the uptake.

      • Maggie
        Maggie says:

        I don’t find it controversial at all. But I’m curious about the data. It’s impossible to do everything. I saw what my friends went through after kids, and I didn’t return to work full-time after my daughter was born. My husband was/is furious, but he leaves at 7am and comes back at 9pm most nights and wanted me to carry on in a senior-level position and be the primary caretaker? ?? Yea. ry again.

  3. Elemjay
    Elemjay says:

    I don’t know the US job market, but I do know the UK job market. There are a lot of women over 40 with kids in my Big 4 firm. Some have big roles, lots of middle sized roles. I think the difference is it’s more acceptable to say work 4 days a week. And you might work long days but there is a lot of flexibility both in respect of hours and location (very early or after kids bedtime from home or wherever you need to). Women are underrepresented at the top, but they are represented. Mind you, I am a female INTJ so maybe I’m the anomaly…..

    • Nicky
      Nicky says:

      As dual nationality (UK/Aus) I agree – I was quite stunned with this article. I didn’t even have my first child till 37, and now at 49 plan to work as long as I can. Apart from the fact I enjoy it (yes more than staying home with kids all day), with house prices in Sydney (like London) the way they are, there is no way we could live in a decent/any house as a family on single income. I have been self employed for 17 years though. My friends in UK and Australia, and USA for that matter, are a long way off thinking about retirement – a broad mix of employed vs self employed.

  4. Carol
    Carol says:

    My Aspberger’s female friends: One can’t keep a job because I think she doesn’t seem relatable (also, she focuses overmuch on what she wants to focus on) (remember that genomics can add another layer to Aspbergers—like COMT gene variant–as does hormone status). Another is a lawyer for a federal agency; she has been passed by for promotions, likely due to her brittle/nonrelatable personality–and this happened to two other female friends I suspect of what I call Asberger’s Lite. It’s true that many of my female friends are freelance/self-employed, including the Asberger’s Lite farmer and the consulting ornithologist.
    My mom was a corporate workaholic who I’d say was not Asberger’s….but introverted and maybe COMT.
    I’d just say there are whole other dimensions at work here. I think your post. is a good step into deep analysis.

  5. Jay
    Jay says:

    Excellent column. I believe there is one more category of women in the workplace later in life – those that either cannot have or have chosen not to have children. I find these women to be mostly content and great team players.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I am giving you data from coaching about 3000 women over the last 10 years. This means I had at least a one-hour conversation with each woman and I asked her up front if she has children and if she wants children.

      At first I asked because the answer has so much impact on how a person steers their career. But then I saw a pattern: women who were in their 30s and said they did not want kids always had some sort of trauma growing up.

      So then I always asked if the person had trauma. And I found nearly 100% correlation.

      What I found is that before age 31 lots of women think they don’t want kids, but they change their minds. By age 31 almost every woman says she wants kids either right then or eventually. I started asking women who said they didn’t want kids, “Did you have childhood trauma?”

      Most women said no. But then when I defined trauma as (for example) not enough money for food, alcoholism, periodic violence from a family member — then every single woman who said she never wants to have kids said she did have one of those experiences.

      It’s amazing to me. But now that I’ve had so many years to think about it, it makes sense: The relationship between a parent and child is very odd and very special. If you did not have the experience of that as a child you doubt the need to have that experience as an adult.

      Warning: proselytizing here. I want to speak to people who recognize themselves here in this comment. Because I had a terrible childhood and my parents were incompetent. But I love my kids so much that it’s absurd to even try to quantify it.

      And there is a reason that everyone else has kids: normal people love their children more than anything else in life. Normal people find pleasure in caring for their children. And normal people can choose to not pay attention to their kids but they do not.

      You can trust that you will do that, too. Just because your parents couldn’t take joy in their children doesn’t mean you won’t. I was neglected and abused as a child, I have Aspergers and I’m an ENTJ. I am completely ill-suited to take care of children. So if I can love my kids more than anything in the world, then anyone can love their kids that much. And that’s what being a good parent is. Putting kids first because you love them so much.


      • J.E.
        J.E. says:

        I’m 40 and don’t want kids. I had great parents and didn’t have a traumatic childhood. My family wasn’t rich, we were solidly middle class. I never lacked for anything and have wonderful memories. I just never have felt that pull to have a child. I’m an INFJ so you would think I’d be all over parenthood, but that urge never came. Also I have a husband who is 17 years older than me. If I had a baby now, he’d be in his 70s by the time the kid was graduating high school. Besides being content with our lives as is, there are things like parental age to take into consideration when in an age gap relationship/marriage. I know guys who became first time parents in their mid 50s and it’s working wonderfully for them, it just wasn’t for us.

          • Jane
            Jane says:

            Same. I’m 38 and I have and always have had a great relationship with my upper-middle class parents. I really wanted kids in my twenties and then stopped caring. I have four siblings, so there isn’t really any pressure on me to reproduce. My lifestyle is really good. Maybe this was true for boomers and Gen X but I know tons of millennials that don’t want kids.

  6. Marcy
    Marcy says:

    You left out one or two categories of women still working: those who have ADHD/are easily bored (me), and those who have much older spouses on Medicare so must work for benefits for herself and the kiddos (also me). I stayed home for a year but was bored silly so went back to work but have changed jobs, on average, every 2.25 years…also because boredom. And my husband is 18 years older and can no longer offer us medical benefits. Oh and I’m INFJ.

    • J.E.
      J.E. says:

      I’m in this situation, but don’t have children. I’m 40, also an INFJ and my husband is 17 years older than me. He is working as a contractor and paying for his own insurance plan. The cost to just cover himself is significant enough that I didn’t want to double that by putting myself on the plan. I work full time at a university and have 100% employer paid insurance (That’s just for me. If I added my spouse or any dependents, then the cost shoots up). I think there are more people (women and men) in this situation than we realize. A sizable chunk are working just to get paid in health insurance.

      • Marcy
        Marcy says:

        My employer also offers 100% medical coverage, but for the entire family as long as you select the high deductible plan. And they kick in $1000 a year for my HSA. So yep, it’s a huge reason to stay at this job as long as I can (before the boredom gets too bad again).

  7. Marilu
    Marilu says:

    Long time reader, first time poster. Maybe I’m an anomaly… ENFJ female with two kids. While I adore my children, I’ve kept working as a project manager because I like it. It brings me a different sense of fulfillment than staying home with them full-time. Granted, I’m not 40 yet, but I don’t see a future where I wouldn’t work, at least on a part-time basis (currently working about 30 hours/week).

  8. Laruren
    Laruren says:

    As an INTJ, I agree with your comments. I am also a single mom, worked in corporate for 25 years, and had the “male mind”. 9 1/2 years ago, I left corporate to start and run 3 businesses. There are days I wish I was back in the corporate world.

    Penelope, thank you for writing this article to share your perspective.

  9. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    Thank you for your insight and facilitating conversation around these challenging topics. I’ve been following your blog for years. This post struck a nerve for me and I’m trying to decide if I agree or disagree with you based upon my personal experience. I am a 39 year old, single mother by choice (meaning no divorce, no partner) of a toddler. My family lives on the other side of the country. I was married for a decent number of years, but that’s a different story. I have my under graduate degree from an all women’s college and a graduate degree in design and technology. I work as a director in a creative studio within a mega corporate global firm. Recently, I have been promoted to a senior leadership position. I am not a top-performer, but solidly in the top middle. My job these days revolves more around interpersonal relationships and mentorship than technical skill. I do not have Aspergers. I am in a job that I love with a flexible work environment, but it’s a culture that our microcosm of a studio has to aggressively protect. Now with numbers to back us up, it’s a model that is being more broadly adopted within other parts of the organization. That being said, while my particular studio has multiple women over 40, the majority of our work force is millennials. Perhaps it’s because I work in a creative environment, or perhaps I’m a static anomaly… but I’ve been seeing a trend of women choosing to be single parents by choice because they can, as well as increased demand for flexible work environments that attracts highly skilled creative talent. My younger colleagues are following my trials and tribulations with interest and empathy. I sincerely hope my experience is not isolated and that the dial is moving for women to live the type of life they want.

  10. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    I see a lot of women over the age of 40 at work, but I work in state higher ed, which can be a different beast than corporations. These women are not just faculty, but occupy all levels of staff at the university. I think flexibility is a big reason why and I think it’s also a big issue for men as well as women. Granted, the salaries are on the lower side, but administrative positions have quite solid incomes. I don’t know why more U.S. companies don’t offer their employees flexible schedules. Other countries do, but here, it’s the exception and not the rule. Also, in countries with strong social programs, people don’t have to work crazy hours to try and get overtime pay. You don’t have to have a huge savings for retirement/later life because there are programs in place to take care of you. You don’t have to work an inflexible job you don’t like, get paid a low wage, and pay through the nose for child care just to have the insurance. I know several women who continue to work full time while having small children even though they have a spouse who makes decent money and childcare eats up all or almost all of their paycheck, it’s for the insurance. The spouse may have a high paying job, but the insurance plan is garbage so the family is on the wife’s plan. She’s basically paid in insurance benefits.

    • J.E.
      J.E. says:

      I’d like to see this too. I work in higher ed and I’d like to see more information on women in higher ed that’s not about female faculty. There are more than just faculty working in universities; there are a variety of staff positions that don’t work with students directly, or at all. I feel like any time there’s a discussion of working at a university, it’s all about faculty/teaching.

      • Not that Melissa
        Not that Melissa says:

        My parents had/have non-teaching roles in biology departments at prestigious universities. Even at 9 years old, I could tell that the culture was sick. I don’t think it’s improved. (It has been my lifelong ambition never to go to graduate school.)

        • J.E.
          J.E. says:

          What I’m talking about are positions like director of marketing or benefits coordinator at a state school. Positions outside of teaching or research that would often be found at many companies but they just happen to be on a university campus. Not much gets said about these jobs that keep the day to day operations of the campus going. There are similarities to other companies but there are unique quirks and things that make them very attractive too despite the pay maybe not being as high as what you’d find in the private sector. The same could be said for working in the non profit sector.

          • Melissa
            Melissa says:

            Not much gets said about those jobs? Get ready! There was a wonderful discussion of just that type of work on NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast from September 3, 2018. Definitely worth a listen as the episode is a nice companion to Penelope’s post.

            Most of those jobs are b*llsh*t and are a direct cause of budget bloat which has made college education astronomically expensive. In fact, the title of the episode is actually “BS Jobs: How Meaningless Work Wears Us Down”.

    • Deborah
      Deborah says:

      There are a lot of female teachers and administrators over 40, many of whom are single parents. At one point there was a belief that teachers chose the profession because of the abundant vacation days (average: 12 weeks per year), but those have been eroded by year-round school schedules, extended-year schedules (Summer School) and the need to continue education for advanced degrees and job professional development, not to mention writing curriculum and serving on discipline, textbook and curricular materials selection committees, most of which meet during school breaks. My experience (38 years) is anecdotal, but few teachers I’ve known have ever been able to take more than 6-8 weeks for maternity leave. Very few have left the profession for full-time child-rearing because few were married to spouses who could support them.

  11. AlwaysRunning
    AlwaysRunning says:

    Penelope, as always, your insight is uncanny. My oldest is in third grade and on my neurotypical days I am so done. But, as an ES(N?)TJ and top performer who enjoys telling all the tech guys around me what to do, here I am. Also I make 3x my husband and so if anyone retires it gets to be him.

    • Meghan Flynn
      Meghan Flynn says:

      I was so shocked by this that I immediately started googling for data the specifies the third grade thing, because MY oldest is halfway through 2nd grade, I’m neurotypical and not an ENTJ and I am SO DONE WITH THIS NONSENSE.

      I love how Penelope, seemingly so casually, will drop a sentence like that in a post and it just goes right to my core.

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Note: This comment actually came to me through my inbox, but I posted it here so I could reply./
    As a single mom raising 2 young kids, I wanted to weigh in on a section of the email you sent today.

    Regarding women with kids who opt to stay in the workplace post-40:

    “Women who are raising kids alone. Only 2% of college-educated women fall into this category because college-educated women know that divorce is financial and logistical horror for the kids. I have never talked with a college-educated woman who is raising kids alone who does not have Aspergers.”

    I see the first part of this statement as a value judgment. Believe me, women who have gone through divorce — whether the divorce was wanted or not — know the financial and emotional pitfalls. It is not always a choice, and I take issue with the implication that women who are college-educated and divorced must be unintelligent to go through this sort of horrible breakup. It is not always a choice. Men leave. Often. You can’t always stop them from doing so.

    You follow up to support that statement with a personal story about how you’ve never met a woman in the above situation who doesn’t have Asperger’s. I don’t find that your personal experience is all that analogous with mine. I am a part of a large network of college-educated single mothers who have been left by narcissistic and otherwise self-involved men. It’s not always a choice. We need to work to survive, not always by choice.

    I just wanted to dissect that section of your writing. I’m generally a fan of your stuff, but when I see something that makes me uneasy, it makes me want to ask questions and understand where someone is coming from.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      First of all, you need to understand the difference between narcissism and Aspergers. It’s common to mix them up.

      Most people who say their ex was narcissistic have an ex who had Aspergers. It’s very difficult to actually peg someone who has narcissism because they have incredible social skills. They are self-centered but people rarely divorce someone with narcissism because it’s so hard to see what’s really happening.

      Someone who behaves like a self-centered jerk and doesn’t have incredible social skills has Aspergers. This is not to say that the person is intentionally being a jerk. They don’t understand that they are only looking out for themselves. Even if you try to explain.

      Also, someone with narcissism wants to be the center of attention so people think they are great. They are extroverted and they leave home all the time because leaving home is an opportunity to meet new people and manipulate them.

      Someone with Aspergers thinks what they do is right and they don’t want to be told they are not right. But that’s not the same as needing people to talk about how great they are. Being right and being great are different.

      Also, a person with Aspergers likes routine and does not like meeting new people. People with Aspergers get upset when they have to do things that are new that they don’t want to do. People with Aspergers are direct, as in “Can you just tell me what you want me to do?” People with narcissism have more nuance. As in, “I did this because I thought you’d like it.” But the truth is the person with Aspergers cares a lot more about what the other person wants than the person with narcissism. It just doesn’t sound that way.

      I took the time to explain this to tell you that as soon as you told me you left your husband because he is a narcissist I knew you had Aspergers. Here’s why:

      1. People with Aspergers marry people with Aspergers. Because that’s what we normalize because it’s genetic so we grew up with it. Neurotypical women run from men with Aspergers. But men with Aspergers don’t see anything odd. And the same is true the other way around: you didn’t see the red flags when you got married because you were used to seeing the red flags in your own family.

      2. Aspergers is an extreme male brain (see the link in the post). So an Aspergers woman married to an Asperger man will feel like she is the one who is neurotypical. But really she is just more high-functioning than a man with Aspergers. Compared to neurotypical WOMEN the woman with Aspergers is very Asperger. So when there is a divorce between two people with Aspergers it’s because the woman thinks the man is low-functioning and she isn’t.

      2. You wouldn’t have a community of friends who have exes with narcissism. It’s not something that would make women feel like they have a lot in common. If you get rid of a narcissist you move on. If you have Aspergers and you divorce a spouse with Aspergers you are similar to all the other women who divorced someone with Aspergers But all of you having Aspergers would feel like something in common even if you don’t know it.

      4. Most importantly: Aspergers is genetic. If you don’t want your kids to grow up to be like their dad, they need to get help. If you don’t want your kids to marry someone like their dad because it looks normal, they need help. Aspergers is very manageable if you know you’re are managing it. If you ignore it then Aspergers eats you up.

      You should take my Aspergers course! You can watch it with your group of friends — no extra charge! The course is all the people who found out they had Aspergers within the last year. Many are still in shock. The course is everything you need to know to use the information to live a better life.

      The course was so popular that no one wanted it to end, so we turned it into a weekly group. And after meeting for a month, we all LOVE LOVE the group. And remember, this is a group of people who hate groups and hate meetings, so it’s a big deal that we love meeting.

      I hope you’ll take a look at the course. Here’s a link:

      Email me if you have any questions.



      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:

        She didn’t say she and her group of friends left their husbands because they were narcissists. She said the husbands left them, and it was beyond their control. That said, everyone seems to think that their ex (or mother) is either ‘toxic’ or ‘a narcissist’ these days.

        • Jennifer Clark
          Jennifer Clark says:

          I agree that people are quick to label others as narcissists these days. That said, they do exist, and in high-conflict divorce situations they exist in droves.

          That said, I don’t have Asperger’s. Sorry. I’m actually really unclear on how you make that assumption having never met me. I mean, it’s a pretty big mental leap. People don’t always fall aling statistical data points. My husband left us to move out of state. It’s bonkers, and I won’t normalize it. He asked for the divorce after staying out all night unannounced partying in the city. Men leave. Sometimes substances are involved. I come from a childhood where I tried to fix an abusive father and I continue to seek out people to “fix,” which is something I’m working on. None of this screams Asperger’s to me. Neurotypicals do marry Aspies.

          The root of my original point is 1) labelling your sources gives your points more merit and 2) I’m not “uneducated” for getting divorced after kids. There are many, many single moms out here and we can’t a be that stupid.

  13. renee
    renee says:

    I find what you said about Narcs and aspergers very interesting. The anonymous writer said that her husband left her, not that she left her husband. Does that change anything?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      No. I never think it matters who left who. Both people participated in the gradual decline of their marriage. Even if someone is a born leaver — the person who married the born leaver is an inviter of leavers. This seems like a good time to recommend the book, The Ragged Way People Fall Out of Love. It is heartbreaking. And great writing. By Elizabeth Cox. She was one of my teachers in graduate school. She did not make me the teacher’s pet, which is so wrong, and I dislike her for that. But that’s how evolved I am: I recommend herb book anyway.


  14. MT
    MT says:

    I quit a job I hated at 33 when my first child was born exactly as your data predicts. I stayed home for nearly 15 years and rejoined the workforce full time at 48 (we lived overseas for husbands job – I volunteered a lot). In 3 years back at work I’ve been promoted twice, am a leader in my (small) company and my teenage kids are pretty glad I’m not around so much hovering over them. I’d be really interested in data about women like me. It’s working but it’s also very hard sometimes having a boss who is 34 and a CEO just turning 40. In the oldest person in absolute at work. But I would not trade the time I had with my kids.

      • Ashley
        Ashley says:

        I would also love to hear more about this story! I have young kids and although I am doing well in my career, I can see the pull Penelope describes of leaving the workforce by the time kids are in the 3rd grade…it’s a lot to manage.

        And thanks as always, Penelope, for your incisive analysis and writing.

      • MT
        MT says:

        Hi Angela,
        I never intended to stay out of the workforce so long and the longer i was out the harder it became to go back (and we moved countries 6 times in 12 year which didn’t help). I felt useful to the family during all those transitions, too bad it was easy to put off a job search. We are settled now for at least a 7 year stint so it was time and we need the money for college.

        I changed fields and got very very lucky with a CEO who believed in me even with my non-traditional CV with mostly unpaid work. And it turns out I love working. Upside is I don’t need childcare at all downside is I work with all millennials which mostly makes me feel old (and video calls are a nightmare with 51 year old skin) but they respect me for my “experience”. I don’t get invited to the after work drinks or girls’ yoga weekends but I’m good with that. It’s been easier to rise up because I’m just more seasoned as a human than the other people at my level even if I don’t have 15 years of specific industry experience, even if I’m 15 years or more older than everyone else.
        I won’t lie that my salary history sucks so I’m also a bargain for my company but it’s all about trade offs.

        • Melissa
          Melissa says:

          Video calls. I’m a photographer and this is definitely a solvable problem. The two things you can think about are 1) angle of the camera and 2) light source.

          I assume you are using a laptop camera? Before a call, get your laptop propped up so the camera is above the level of your eyes, pointing down at your face. This is creates a more conventionally flattering effect for a female face.

          To get to the next level, turn off the overhead light and use a lamp or window positioned behind the camera as your primary light source. This will remove the shadows caused by the brow bones and add a charming sparkle to the eyes.

          • Sharon Cabana
            Sharon Cabana says:

            Thank you so much Melissa! Have recently started doing video calls and meetings. Seeing facial expressions is much better than a static picture so really appreciate the tips.

  15. Shell
    Shell says:

    I think it’s a pretty flat arm wave to say no single working mothers are Asperger free. I’m an INFJ. College educated single mother (my son is now 25). I’m fairly sure I don’t have Asperger’s. Sometimes life just happens. I had my son in college, was married to his father for a year. We were both too young. I left my son’s Dad when he was a year. And I just did it, I was young, idealistic and thought I could handle it. It was hard but I did handle it – my son is not a college educated mechanical engineer. I did run into issues because my son always came first. One of the companies I worked with would not allow me to become management because I refused to stay late at work (I had to pick my son up at daycare by a certain time). I could have done management work within a 40 hour time frame with ease. So I quit that job for a work at home job almost 20 years ago and I’ve been working from home as a designer ever since. Could my choices have been different, yes. Could I have made more money, yes. But I put my son first. I don’t think I’m in a non existent category of single mothers who put their kids first. At least as first as they can while they work. I was so fortunate to be able to work from home starting when my son was 9 years old.

  16. Coset
    Coset says:

    Why do you still use the term “Aspergers” despite the huge push against it from all sorts of directions for all sorts of reasons?

      • Dana
        Dana says:

        My brother, a child psychiatrist, tells me that they are moving away from using the term, “Aspergers,” Instead they use, “on the spectrum.”

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          When you diagnose a kid it’s hard to tell exactly how they’ll turn out. So you say the kid will turn out to be somewhere on the spectrum because he’s somewhere on the spectrum now. When you are talking about a middle-aged woman you know how its going to turn out, so you don’t need to hedge by talking about a whole spectrum of possibilities.

          When the mental health profession gets rid of more specific words like Aspergers, they lose tools that can help them diagnose grown women. We need words that are specific to diagnose people who have already lived 40 years and can describe the scope of their own problems.

          Actually, just writing all this out makes me actually have an opinion on using Aspergers vs Autism. The mental health profession got rid of Aspergers to make things easier for themselves. So women should keep using the word because we have taken a back seat in healthcare for too long.


          • Coset
            Coset says:

            I’m not necessarily opposed to using terms for certain classic presentations of autism that might help people self-identify. I just don’t think that “Aspergers” in particular is more helpful than harmful, as it is commonly used as a way to say that a certain group of people is “less autistic” than others. It prevents a lot of people from getting the help they need (because Aspergers is seen as high-functioning across the board, even when someone might need a great deal of support in certain areas).

            Also, there’s been more research done in the last year or so showing that Asperger was a LOT more of a Nazi collaborator than previously thought. It’s caused a number of people to rethink their relationship with the term.

  17. Cerebral
    Cerebral says:

    Are the dissenters in a bubble?

    She says Aspbergers something most people who have it don’t know. If you have never been tested for it, how are you so sure you don’t have it?

    She says many women leave work when kids are in 3rd grade…well…do some math. College Educated women. 25% of workforce is college educated. Maybe about half is women. Then what percentage of that have children at 3rd grade ish?

    If all the women with kids in third grade dissappeared would you notice?

  18. Ibti
    Ibti says:

    The average age of my four children is exactly that of third grade and I am going back into full time work. But I’m starting to think I’m atypical. Thanks, Penelope.

  19. Carol
    Carol says:

    BTW, folks: Do not click on “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” unless you’re OK with receiving many emails and no way to stop them. The “Manage your subscriptions” link does not work. No one’s fault; it’s just what is.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Carol, thank you for letting me know! The comments subscription is broken. We are fixing it this weekend. Comments are my favorite part of the site — so I definitely don’t want them to be annoying to you!


  20. Alyson Long
    Alyson Long says:

    After reading this post and the one about -not thinking you have it – I’m confused. I have a degree, never wanted to work, got out of work PDQ to look after kids – yes, my elder one was in 3rd grade – that’s when I pulled him out to homeschool. I’m bored a LOT. I’m a bit hyper. My husband is 11 years younger but I’m not bored by my kids and I talk about emotion. I have no idea whether I have Aspergers or not. I’d never go back ” to work” but I work for myself and I’m incredibly driven to compete and succeed. It seems everyone I know is Aspergers. I can see it in all of them. What % of the population is thought to be Aspergers these days? I thought everyone was ” on the spectrum” . We’re all on different spots with neurotypical somewhere in the middle.

  21. Chris
    Chris says:

    I am a 57 year-old, divorced (but never married) single mother of two young adults. I don’t have Aspberger’s and I am not an INTJ or an ENTJ. But yet. I am a software product manager on the tech team at a large media company. There is nobody I work with who looks like me. Born at the tail-end of the Baby Boom and the beginning of Gen X, with work BFFs who are millennials, I am generationally fluid. When my kids were born, I leaned out. Left my Director of Engineering position to work from home as a part-time contract software developer so that I could be with them. Re-entered the full time work force when they were in middle-school, where I migrated from development to product management. This year, 19 years after I leaned out, I finally got promoted (back) to Director. It’s been a long and winding road, but I can say that it was worth it to lean out for my kids and I feel lucky to have been able to lean back in. My point? I guess my point is that despite statistics and trends and studies and norms, there are always exceptions and the hardest part of being an exception is finding a way to listen to and trust yourself.

  22. Sheila
    Sheila says:

    Quite possibly the stupidest thing I’ve read in a long time. Any valid points are obscured by the idiocy of stating as fact that all women raising children alone who also have careers have Asperger’s. I can guarantee that I do not have Aspberger’s, nor do any of the many other single mothers I know who successfully combined the two.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Probably SF is a more accurate example of a feminine brain, because there are way more S’s than N’s for both men and women. It’s really the F that makes a brain male or female. The biggest break between men and women in between T and F. Almost all men are T’s and almost all women are F’s.


  23. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    Over a century ago the German sociologist Georg Simmel said that women coming into the public square would change it to suit “a more feminine sensibility.”

    For several years I have been trying to figure out what that means, and now I have decided that women will only thrive in areas of the public square that cater to a feminine sensibility.

    The whole point of “careers” — from the Frenh carrière, race track — is that they brilliantly exploit the warrior consciousness of men. Imagine! Get men competing without actually blowing each others heads off!

    Obviously it is crazy to dump women into this bear pit, because they are collaborators not fighters. And women´s tendency towards manipulation and gossip, highly valuable in the village environment, is poison for corporations.

    Of course all this only applies to the “gentry” according to Curtis Yarvin’s three class notion in The Clear Pill and the gentry’s need for “ambition, honor, and vanity.” Who cares about the “commoners!”

  24. DP
    DP says:

    I am 43, my kids are 15,12,8. I have a high paying job with a SF based tech company, but I work mostly from home from a small town on the east coast (some travel). To define high paying- my base salary is $154k and I usually top $200k, sometimes more depending on our stock value and bonuses. My husband also has a professional job with a short commute. He makes about $110k. Both of our jobs can be demanding, we have conflict but we always figure it out.

    There are quite a few women over 40 on my team (and on my husband’s team as well) many with kids. In my town, there are only a few stay at home moms.

    I have never seen a stat saying that most college educated women stay home with kids. Most of my female friends with $100K+ jobs are similar to me. We like our work, but we’ve valued flexibility over upward mobility for the time being. Could I be a director by now? Maybe? Who cares. I make great money and do fun stuff. Life is long and I can shift gears when my kids are gone.

    The problem I have with PT’s posts sometimes is her definition of a “good job”. I can be a professional contributor with a great income without being strapped to a desk. Maybe I couldn’t be on a VP track, but I wouldn’t want that anyway.

    What I do want is to use my mind professionally in keeping with my values, keep my family secure with good health insurance and save for a dignified old age for myself. Sure, I wouldn’t keep this job if it meant I couldn’t be the parent I want to be, but I can be the parent I want to be, so…?

  25. Sara
    Sara says:

    I am a single mother who has a masters degree. I work full time because I have to, to have money and health insurance for myself and my daughter. I am 37. There are plenty of older women at my job, many with kids. This article is wrong.

  26. Chris
    Chris says:

    I’m about to turn 50, have 4 kids (3 of them in their 20s and one who just turned 6). I am an ENTJ, worked in Big 4 consulting most of my career. I think you’re statement about taxes on higher incomes outside of the US is flat out wrong.

    I worked in the US for 20 years and now live in New Zealand. The % of take home pay here is exactly the same as it was in the US. Except, I don’t have to worry about health insurance here. I work at the same company, in the same position, that I did in the US.

    I think the reason we see fewer women over 40 in leadership positions globally is for the similar reasons that it’s seen in the US – people promote people that are like them. Luckily here in NZ, there are more women in leadership, so we are closer to gender parity.

  27. MB
    MB says:

    Perhaps, 3 other categories were left off
    1. Women who were first generation college students…and don’t have generational wealth, or the social/cultural capital to stop working
    2. First generation immigrant women, who again (see point #1)
    3. Black women who have a deep relationship to work (and/or again, see point #1)

    I like reading your blog, and posts like this remind me that I’m not the target market. – but that’s ok. Good to see how others think.

  28. Sede
    Sede says:

    Sorry for the tome. I’ve been told my types are long winded. My Bio- INTJ female married to ENTJ male. Both first generation African immigrants and second generation college. Both have advanced degrees in sciences.

    I’ve never tested for Asperger’s but i do have some “tendencies”. I have a 1st grader. An experiment after 8 years of marriage- I rightly calculated that my husband would not be a hands on father (despite several promises and pleas) and i didn’t want to be left essentially as a married “single mother” . I do not have a natural maternal instinct but I do have a strong commitment to my child (a reason I haven’t divorced the ENTJ yet- been toying with it for 2 years)

    Anyway- to the point. I completely disagree with you and agree with you at the same time. Of course, there are women who enjoy caring for children (I suspect most NFs and XSFJ types). Probably feel massively guilty for working while their children grow up in school.

    However, the United States is uniquely UNSUITABLE for a working mother. This is a cultural issue borne out of not allowing women to work during the development of the systems around work (1850-1930s). In my culture, even while DEEPLY patriarchal (sometime benevolent, many times toxic), women have worked for centuries- regardless of income level. The owners of trade were typically women (men did the heavy farming work, women sold in the markets), heck we had a permanent seat at the King’s senate. As a result, there is a system and expectation that your children were always with you- either selling with you in the market, with extended family with rotational childcare or other flexible structures.

    Today in my culture, all school starts at 7:30 and ends at 4 with math or science lessons till 7pm. There is no social shame in this, its actually encouraged. Unless you have an insecure or controlling spouse, you’re actually encouraged to work. The culture is collaborative in nature so work is not oppressive to the F nature. Of course its horribly inefficient as a result and drove me nuts- hence my immigration to US.

    I appalled that I’m expected to sit through my son’s rehearsals and practices. Not games- practice. I’m shocked that all parent teacher conferences are from 2pm to 5pm and it took a pandemic before they even thought about phone calls and video calls. There is no structure- formal or informal for childcare. And God save you if you (like me) have no family that live nearby. Tack on that the cultural norm of the stay-at-home mom who just narrowly supplanted the never-allowed-to-work woman. And that all schools are designed with this structure in mind. And you are directly or indirectly shamed for wanting to work (or not wanting unfortunately)

    Work here was designed for a single focused man to work for 12 hours. Otherwise, (like in Asia), people would live at work and go to a communal home on the weekends. Having a school in the corporate building, provided meals so no cooking is expected, work employed babysitters on site – all ways to blur work/life balance but to also make it even possible for moms to work

    Finally, the efficiency does place results above people. It makes for astronomical growth and wealth. It also makes for burnout, depression and fragility. Companies are encouraged to be ruthless and break contracts. The most conscientious ones are highly competitive that is tiring for most non J types.

    And with all those reasons to not work, there are droves of women- married with multiple children working above age 40. They tend to work in people oriented fields – healthcare, sciences, customer service. I left an engineering company (why? CYA and back stabbing plus ethically fraudulent accounting practices) to an agricultural company. Same job, more pay but because we’re serving farmers every day, that culture permeates to day to day work. Competition with collaboration- just perfect.

    Also the work place is becoming more feminine- good luck making crude jokes without being fired. or commenting on your coworkers clothing. its very slow and there are still lots of gaps but its coming. Work from home, flexible hours, politically correct language, abolishment of work dress codes, flatter hierarchy structures are all from women joining. We’ll hit the home run when there’s 6 months maternity leave and a full month for paid child sick leave

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