Discuss: To Bake or Not to Bake

Jan 28, 2011

Earlier this week, I stopped into a local store to buy some cookie cutters.  My Mother has a killer sugar cookie recipe, and I thought that I would make a batch for my co-workers.  As I was sorting through a basket of ceramic baking stamps, trying to decide between stars and snowflakes, I ran into a neighbor of mine.

9th Floor is a mid-thirties attorney who clawed her way to the almost-top of the country’s biggest firms, and never misses an opportunity to dispense career advice, wanted or otherwise.  So it didn’t surprise me when on the walk home, our conversation turned toward my purchase.

“You bake for work?” Her tone was less curious than it was accusatory.  “I thought you were more ambitious than that.”

It’s surprising how many times I’ve had this conversation over the last five years.  I’ve had it with a co-worker who’s obsessed with the book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.  I’ve had it with a parishioner at church who’s an Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Something or Other.  And I’ve had it with a woman in the security line who saw me toting a cupcake carrier into the Cannon building and almost threw herself upon it like it was a live grenade, such was her horror at the idea of a professional woman who can roll fondant with her eyes closed.

The doctrine that these ladies espouse is best explained by the author of the book mentioned above:

“Hillary Rodham Clinton may have been lambasted for her comment about not staying home and baking cookies, but her point was well taken.  We don’t ascribe a sense of impact or importance to people who feed others.  It may seem like a small or inconsequential thing, but the fact is, you rarely see food on men’s desks.

The act of feeding is equated with nourishing, and nourishing is definitely a stereotypically female attribute.”

Over the last decade, I’ve met a surprising number of women who have decided (consciously or not) that in order to climb the corporate ladder to the highest rung, you need to minimize the things about you which are feminine and act a little (or a lot) more like one of the boys.  And frankly, I think that’s mostly #?%! advocated by women who worked hard to get where they are, but who need to believe that the path they chose and the sacrifices they made were the best option.

This crooked philosophy is then passed on to younger generations of women who aspire to be like the powerful female bosses. But these young women often fail to notice that in most professional environments, the glass ceiling isn’t quite as thick as it used to be and the women at the top didn’t all use the same blueprint to break through it.

Rules like this one make professional women who don’t cook or bake or take part in the “stereotypically female” pastimes, feel better about the fact that some people think their lack of prowess in the kitchen is a shortcoming. Because, even in our supposedly evolved, gender neutral, 21st Century society, we still see a woman who can’t boil water as a malformed genetic mutant who has failed to live up to expectations.

Every woman who has ever advised me not to take baked goods or other foodstuffs to the office has had two things in common: professional success and complete and utter ineptitude in the kitchen.   So just like hearing the rhetoric of your own political party is designed to make you feel like you’re on the side of right, hearing that you’re inability to braise, brine or baste is a professional asset must be something of a comfort.

Now, I’m not hating on women who can’t cook.  Some of my best friends are hopeless in the kitchen.  But I don’t think that women who are not culinarily-inclined should try to discourage those of us who are with threats of professional-suicide by whoopie pie.

I work in an office where a few well-timed cookie deliveries keep us all from strangling each other to death during the stressful times, and give us something to bond over during the good times.  I bake for birthdays.  I bake for recess Fridays.  I bake because I decided last night that eating 48 molasses cookies seemed like a self-destructive idea, and I just happen to have a eleven captives who would be happy to take those empty, but delicious calories off of my hips. And the only commentary that I’ve ever heard about my baking is that it’s delicious and that I should bring things in more often.

The point that I’m trying to make is this: Every workplace is different.  Sure, there are still some depleted, wastelands of testosterone and prejudice where cookies would be seen as a sign of weakness, but most offices are fueled by the sugary social lubricant that lightens the mood and allows us to break bread together like colleagues.  So bake or don’t bake based on your unique professional circumstances, not because an author, a colleague or a mentor prescribes a one-size-fits-all map for professional advancement.  Just remember, Martha Stewart started out making pate for her husband’s work parties and now she’s a billionaire and he’s not.

So what do you ladies think?  Do you bake for your office?  Or do you think that baking would lead others to view you in a less than professional light?

And if you’re a man, do you ask your wife to bake goods for your office?  How do you view female colleagues who bring in bake goods?

The comments are open, and I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.  But right now, I need a cookie.


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  1. Liana says:

    After reading your post, most of the comments, and definitely over thinking and re-thinking this debate, I have come to this conclusion:
    Keep baking, Belle. 🙂

  2. Liana says:

    After reading your post, most of the comments, and definitely over thinking and re-thinking this debate, I have come to this conclusion:
    Keep baking, Belle. 🙂

  3. Rachel says:

    I'm with you on this one! I was designated the office baker when the original baker left. I would say that my baking actually enhances my relationships with my co-workers–and certainly does not cause them to look down on me or doubt my professional skills. I think baking shows that I am well-rounded and don't live and die by my work–which seems like a good thing to me.

    I say bring on the baked goods!

  4. B says:

    I just started working, but I've interned as a law clerk in a private firm, a corporation, a state pd's office, and now I work in government. At all of these places I've felt different vibes about whether or not it's a good career idea to bring in what I've just baked, and I dearly love to bake. To me, the real question you have to ask yourself is how, in the particular environment, the cookies you're bringing in will affect your image. Are you the competent and confident attorney who has a way with banana bread and is nice enough to share? Or are you the socialite of the office who is seeking a MRS to go along with your JD?

    I really believe that if you're talented and you work hard and do what you're supposed to do, having a candy dish or bringing the occasional cupcake to work cannot detract from this image. Of course, it's all dependent on your office environment. If you're the only female besides a secretary and the secretary brings in cookies all the time, it might not be in your best interest to align yourself into that role if that's what you want to avoid. Like most 'rules,' I see this as advice to be used or left as appropriate.

  5. Jessica says:

    I definitely bake for holidays. It's easier than selecting gifts for everyone. And when I host parties at my house and have extra food left over I always bring it into the office because I know it won't go to waste. I've never thought for one second that baking for the office could affect my relationship with my co-workers. I believe I am highly respected in my office for my professionalism and quality of work and my cooking skills are just an added bonus.

  6. Emily says:

    I bake little Christmas cookie bags for colleagues and people in my agency who do things for me, help me out, etc to express my appreciation. I wrap them in clear glycene bags, and tied them with curling ribbon. They are very festive. I work with mostly men. What bothers me is when a handful of them are trying to be funny, they don't say thank you but immediately “complain” that they only got four cookies. I know they think they are trying to be funny, but it exudes a sense of entitlement and gluttony and it INFURIATES me!!!!!

    I typically do not give the complainers any cookies the following year. 🙂

  7. Serena says:

    I work in a very conservative law firm, and like most law firms, there's a gender balance at the associate level but a seriously small number of female partners. Only the support staff bakes (and there are intricate traditions/arguments involved with who brings in what when, which is kind of a joke among the attorneys). I love to bake, but I send extras to my husband's work.

  8. Kate says:

    I told my law-student younger sister that I'd soon be baking for my new office and she had a fit! Told me I needed to read Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office immediately. But working the 80-hour weeks necessary to be an executive has never appealed to me, so I consider it a non-issue. At my last office I worked with a bunch of guys and we would all bring in whatever we had made, be it cupcakes or leftover ribs. Still, for the first few weeks I'm more inclined to bring in leftovers rather than baking specifically for my coworkers – at least until I've proved my professional worth.

  9. L says:

    Baking “for” the office is different that bringing in leftovers, or baking for the holidays. The latter is appreciated, the former may be career limiting. One of the assistants in our office bakes “for” us, and while tasty, it only contributes to the image that she is serving us — just as she does as a secretary.

  10. RMS says:

    I grew up in a house where all household duties (cooking, laundry, cleaning) were divided equally between my parents. As my brother and I got older, these duties became divided 4 ways rather than 2. My mom ran a small PR firm and my dad worked in the local city government. I don't recall my mom ever baking for her office or my dad's, but I do remember that both of my parents brought in treats to their offices from time to time. Stop and get a box of donuts on the way to the office, bring in cookies for someone's birthday, etc. The idea of bringing something to share with your colleagues is the point. The point is not to play out some sort of social commentary on gender roles in the workplace.

    My mom was very driven and a great businesswoman, but her domestic skills just kind of got lost in the shuffle. Based on her example, I learned that your role as a woman is not defined by whether you have the time and skills to bake cookies from scratch. In the same vein, your role as a successful career woman is not derailed if you bring a cupcake carrier to work. Everyone brings their own value to the table. I would never look down my nose at a co-worker for baking her own treats for the office, but if she looks down on me for buying mine on my way to the metro we might have a problem.

    I'm a 26 yr old lawyer working for a government contractor. I bring bagels or cookies to work if I feel like brightening someone's day or saying thank you. You know who encouraged me to do that back in my intern days? My dad.

  11. Leanna says:

    I work in at a non-profit that has a laid back and social atmosphere. In our office people are always baking or bringing back sweets to share after going on a business trip. Instead of being looked down on, those who can bake well are admired. However, my two roommates work in a more corporate settings and they're always shocked by the amount of baking and socializing that goes on in my office. If I worked in an office like theirs, I would not be bringing in cookies and cupcakes. I think it's important to consider the vibe of the particular office before making a judgment on if baking is appropriate or not.

  12. M says:

    I definitely see both sides to this. During both my jobs on the Hill, my superiors (Chief of Staff, LD, Comm Director) were all bakers, and people loved them for it. It made them seem a little more human. But honestly, also a little more vulnerable and weak. And as an intern I brought in baked goods all the time, which meant that everyone from the Staff Assistant to the COS knew my name and loved it. But I'm naturally a “girlie” person, raised in a part of the country that's very stuck on gender roles, and I'm concerned that my affinity for baking, like my higher voice, smiley-ness, and tendency to work hard and not take credit, is going to paint a less than a strong, professional image. In my next job, I don't think I'll bake.

  13. Anna Della says:

    I too have read “Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office” and generally heed its advice, including the part about feeding people (for the record: I could take Martha Stewart in a bake-off). But, I was under the impression the author was asserting that you should only offer sweets when you feel like it. If you want a candy dish on your desk or feel like bringing in brownies on a random Friday, go for it. Personally, I'm not sure I'd be thrilled about being designated the “office baker”. I prefer my pecan pie and pumpkin spice cupcakes to be special occasions, not something my co-workers can expect at the weekly staff meeting.

  14. JEB says:

    Support staff and a male partner (or his partner) bake and share the treats with us at work. I think I'd get bonus points if I baked for the office.

    Any chance that you'd share your mom's sugar cookie recipe or is it a family secret?

  15. RMS says:

    And to follow up and clarify, my brother also frequently brings treats to his office. He has an MBA and works as a benefits administrator for a payroll company. Our parents encouraged both of us to just be nice to our co-workers and that a little thoughtfulness can go a long way.

  16. AL says:

    I totally baked at my former office on the Hill; everyone did. The guys brought in the cookies their mom (or wife) had made; the females, usually, something homemade. We even had a bake-off one day where everyone brought in their own cookies (homemade or not) and we chose which one was the best.

    I think it depends on the culture of your office. But honestly, for some of the commenters above, it seems very sterotypical of women in the kitchen, men earning the paycheck; to me, that's not the company I want to work for. I'm proud to be a female who can earn a living AND cook/bake her way through the kitchen.

  17. SR says:

    I'm a 30-year-old woman and work in a Fortune 500 company in a predominantly male field in the South. I love when my co-worker who's an excellent baker brings us treats (admittedly, she's an executive assistant/ admin). Since I enjoy cooking more than baking, I prefer to bring in nice boxes of chocolates from my travels or baked goods from a local bakery (muffins, scones, etc.). Next month I'll bring in a King cake for Mardi Gras. I don't think twice about it because people love seeing a sweet treat in the break room and both men and women bring in donuts and candy year round. It's not viewed as unprofessional and is actually one of the more typical ways to socialize at my company – we also do department holiday potlucks.

    I think it's different in the North which is where I grew up and it would depend on the employer more than anything. Office culture is so varied. Definitely keep bringing items in – it sounds like they're much appreciated and it's not out of line with your office culture. Plus, it's a genuinely nice gesture that I consider equivalent to taking a co-worker out to a birthday lunch or buying a drink for them at happy hour. Chalk it up to basic human kindness and relationship building.

  18. LJH says:

    I started reading this post and wondered to myself, why didn't I think of this before? I started interning for a senator in January and it's given me my first real taste of working in an office. I know I'd like to eventually work on the hill and I want to make a good impression – I've been here a month and I've only helped out a fraction of the office – no one else seems to have work for me to do (yet).

    So to reintroduce myself to the rest of the office and with Valentine's day coming up as an excuse to get started, any opinions on whether it would be a good idea for me to bring in some cookies? I don't want to look like a suck up, I'd just hope to have co-workers either like me or remember that I'm here.

  19. Stephanie says:

    This is absolutely one of those situations that isn't black-and-white. It totally depends on the dynamic of the office. People who recognize the dynamic in their office and act accordingly will be just fine.

    It's the people who can't recognize the dynamic—the ones who don't recognize that their baking causes them to be viewed as the “Team Mom”—who won't advance. Their lack of advancement is probably what gave people the idea that baking can be bad for your career in the first place.

  20. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    A man in a very high position of power in my office bakes. He brings in cookies about once a year. It's a very nice gesture and the cookies are really good. Other people occasionally bring in foodstuffs. I have worked in an office where I got really annoyed by women who bake though. One woman would bring in really cutesy things that just, well, did not taste good. Pretty to look at, but disgusting to eat. She'd get really insulted when people didn't fall over themselves to eat them or would politely decline. That got really old.

  21. jd says:

    Baking, for me, is a stress reliever. Julie Powell puts it perfectly in her quote:

    “I love that after a day where nothing is sure—and when I say nothing, I mean nothing—you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

    Cheesy? Perhaps. True? Undoubtedly. After some of my worst days, I come home wanting to just collapse into a hot bath and cry, but then I catch sight of my oven and my fingers start to itch. Sometimes I'm convinced that there is no better feeling in the world than pulling a tray of piping hot scones out of the oven or filling your house with the smell of cinnamon and sugar.

    That feeling, combined with the fact that II was raised with the mantra that food is meant to be shared, leads me to bake for others. Everybody needs a pick-me-up once in a while. If someone wants to judge me for my hobbies, then so be it; they can go get their cookies from Starbucks for $2.50.

  22. LN says:

    After a reorganization/some shuffling, I was moved into this building where I knew only a few people, despite having been with the company and in this section for ~5 yrs. More importantly, I had no informal network & was very much out of the loop on knowing what was going on. I put a candy jar on my desk & filled it with good stuff. People would stop in to get a piece of candy, and conversations ensued. I now have one of the better informal networks in my office & usually have my finger on the pulse of what's going on, allowing me to anticipate things before they happen and be proactive… So, no, it's not always a bad thing.

  23. R says:

    The majority of people I work with bring in cookies, to include the males in the office. The secret rule that no one mentions (but WILL talk about) is that if you are to eat the cookies, you must do your part and bring in something eventually as well. NO ONE LIKES A MOOCHER.

    I feel like it shows the workplace that you care about the individuals you work with, and it's an easy way to network and bond with everyone. As long as you work hard and prove yourself through results, it's hard to think that one would label you as the betty homemaker woman who wont go places. Each company has its own culture.

    As far as I'm concerned, if the department head knows my name because of the quick turnaround I have on cases, AND because of my amazing of peanut butter cookies, I am completely okay with that. 🙂

  24. prosecutordc says:

    A few years ago…the lead prosecutor at my government office had a cookie party. He's italian and he made all the cookies from scratch. They were amazing. Was this feminine of him, no? Did we care that he made them versus someone else? Not really. It was a great time to bond with colleagues further. You spend 80% of your week with these people…why not share your hobbies with them? And be nice. there are many things that are career limiting. I refuse to believe being nice to others (even by baking) is one of them. If I had more time, I'd bake more often (not just for the potluck parties). Notably, I'm one of the only lawyers who baked at my holiday party (the administrative staff did) but other lawyers seemed impressed and the staff was very receptive. I still have staff complimenting me and willing to help me out. Thats more than some other attorneys have.

    As to your neighbor…she's just jealous that she can't do such a nice thing or is too much of a bitch to think about it? I'm sick of bitchy women in high positions….why is that necessary? Many executive men don't think women need to act like that. So why do they? Martha Stewart is the perfect example of a female executive (highly regarded by the market and her peers) who bakes and has made money on it. I think the book “Nice girls don't get corner offices” should be stricken…First of all, I wouldn't want the corner office if I had to be not nice to get there. Not to mention doing nice things for your administrative staff or colleagues can have nice rewards (i.e. they will help you out in a pinch).

    Moreover, look around…cooking isn't for women alone. Indeed, most chefs of fine restaurants are men (as are the dessert chefs). Maybe men whose profession is not cooking are less likely to bring in baked goods for their work colleagues than women but I resent this line: The act of feeding is equated with nourishing, and nourishing is definitely a stereotypically female attribute.” I see no correlation whatsoever. Frankly, I'm tired of competitive workplaces where someone would be dinged for baking. (I do agree with an earlier poster though that you should not become “the baker” where people expect it…)

    I think this is your best non-fashion post yet. And I couldn't agree more. Thanks!

  25. Colleen says:

    Baking relaxes me. It's straightforward, and often my best ideas come when I'm mixing or scraping or kneading. That said, I don't want or need dozens of cookies or cupcakes sitting in my kitchen. My husband's not a huge fan of sweets, so I'll take them in to work. Who cares if that makes me look weak? I'm good at it, it's something I enjoy, and it's doing something for others that they'll enjoy as well.

  26. Melissa says:

    I read this last week, and it makes the point that the women who embrace their femininity are actually more likely to get promoted.


  27. Adrienne says:

    I work at a fairly prominent Republican consulting firm, and I bake all the time. Management and partners are balanced pretty equally according to gender. Despite being Republicans, no one looks at this as a “feminine thing.” If asked about it, I think both men and women would roll their eyes at the advice in Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office, which I own but have never read.

    Soon after starting here, I decided to take a cake decorating class at Michael's. Ironically, I decided to take it because I needed a creative outlet after getting through primary season. Baking relieves stress for me and allows me to use other parts of my brain. Since I had to bring a cake to class each week, do I keep it at home and eat it myself, or do I bring it to work?

    Within a few weeks, I became known as the office baker. I think it helped me get to know my co-workers better. Now, everyone gets excited when they see my cupcake carrier. In return, I get a big group of people to serve as my guinea pigs when I invent a recipe and need an outlet for work stress.

    Maybe if I worked in the corporate field, I'd feel differently. But, I've never felt compelled to climb the business ladder. As long as I'm happy in my job and paying the bills, I don't really care if I'm looked at as weak. If my baking is going to affect potential promotions, I don't want to work in that environment anyway.

  28. LC says:

    How are men and women ever going to be equal in the work place so long as “feminine” behaviors are looked upon as showing less ambition?

    It's kind of backwards really – we worked so hard to get to a point where women weren't expected to be the bakers, the sewers, etc. Have anything like this as a hobby now, however, and all of the sudden you're “domestic” and setting women back 100 years.

    All this is doing is enforcing the idea that women have to be like men in the work place – otherwise they'll fail, or be less respected. What kind of message is that?

  29. love it says:


  30. Pamela says:

    Personally, I only bring in goodies for the company's annual holiday bake-off. I've watched a couple gals in my office quickly become go-tos for cupcakes and brownies, and their career tracks just aren't the ones I want to emulate.

    As someone else who's “obsessed” with Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office, I think the author's larger message is that rather than trying to act like a man, women who have their eye on an upper management post need to act like women – not girls. A departing boss gave me the book at the end of last year, summing up its message pretty well before I even opened the cover – the traits and habits that bring you success and make your colleagues like you early in your career are the same ones that will cost you promotions as you continue to climb the ladder.

  31. zora.d says:

    To me this conversation goes back to, not what is successful woman behavior, but the very problem that there is a conception that there is a narrow box of 'successful woman' behavior that you must fit into! I think you were getting at this in your post, Belle, but I think what we need to try to do as women is demand that we broaden expectations, and allow all women's choices to be valid choices.

    As in, choosing to not have children and focus on a career is valid, choosing to not focus on a career-path for several years and to stay home to raise children is valid, choosing to do both is valid, each woman can choose her own path and not be judged for not fitting into the 'correct' box of the moment.

    We need to stop allowing men to make our choices for us, and stop making choices for other women. Men aren't kept in narrow boxes, are they? Some 'successful' men enjoy outdoor sports, some have big families and spend their time with them, some have affairs and sleep around with lots of young women, and while people might make judgments on those choices, it doesn't seem like they are told that 'successful men don't have families' or 'successful men don't cheat on their wives' … it doesn't seem to be connected to whether they are considered valid as a person…

    If someone wants to be a lawyer and they love baking so they bake for their office, yay! If someone wants to be a politician and doesn't enjoy baking, because she has other personal hobbies that she enjoys, yay again!

    Besides, I love it when anyone brings treats into the office, because that means I get to eat them!! 😉

  32. TrailBlaizer says:

    Three cheers for Belle!

  33. Feminist Office Baker says:

    I work in a Hill office where a lot of the staff (men and women) bake. Having said that, I bake more than most (stress relief!) and frequently bring in Friday treats or something for a coworkers birthday. When I was an intern, it was a great way to show the office I appreciated their work and that I wanted to be a part of the office, now as an LA, it's fun, reminds my coworkers that I care about them, and helps us get through the week. When it's someone's birthday, I'll ask them if they have a special request or favorite treat.

    If people put you in a “support staff” category because you bake, it means that the quality of your work isn't high enough the rest of the time to prove them wrong.

  34. Jessica says:

    I am one baker among many (including males) in my large D.C. office. I know for a fact that my colleagues, or managers for that matter, do not view me in any way less of a professional than I am as a result of my baking. If anything, they are amazed at my multifaceted nature and how I manage to carve out time for baking from my hectic schedule.

    My colleagues know that the work I produce from my desk, and in this extraordinary town, is in no way affected because I personally enjoy baking. The fact that I care to share these treats with my colleagues and through my baking blog in no way hinders my professionalism, but rather quite the opposite – I have developed better working relationships by connecting with colleagues on a different level.

    My baking does not take away from my work; and when that work is being evaluated, my baking and extracurricular activities are far from being taken into account. If someone is able to produce quality work, I highly doubt their professional growth will matter if it is known in the office that they are a painter, athlete, or even a baker.

  35. BrieahnJ says:

    I'm all for baking. I have always loved it. For me its a sort of stress relief. All I have to worry about is that the proper amount of ingredients go in the bowl, and when I'm making sugar cookies, look out cause that's when my creative side really comes out. I also love when people love my treats. it's a small sort of validation. I don't feel any less capable of doing my “real” job because I am domestically inclined.

  36. Allison says:

    I have a question for everyone. What about the obesity issue? Is bringing in a tray full of delicious cupcakes where your very obese co-worker will be tempted to eat them like smoking in the car with someone who is trying to quit? Also, what about gluten and nut allergies, or diabetics? I love baking for people, but I became aware of this when a staff assistant asked me to stop bringing in baked goods so often because she had a hard time resisting, and she was suffering from severe health issues from her weight. Of course, we can say “it is their responsibility to eat right” but out of respect for her, I bring in goodies less often and have been experimenting with healthier options.

  37. mc says:

    As a lowly, young, aspiring Hill staffer, “Nice Girls” was indispensable. I think Belle missed the point of the chapter about cooking for coworkers. The book repeatedly stressed not “acting like a man.” True, it's injust that it may, in some settings, be frowned upon to exhibit overly feminine characteristics – there's some diva in all of us!

  38. dm58 says:

    I think this question has prompted responses that, while true, are not really on point. I agree that people “shouldn't” penalize a woman for baking . . . I agree that it “shouldn't” set a woman back in her career to be viewed as domestic . . . to me, though, those aren't the issues you can address until you are already at the top.

    Like it or not, in some environments (where I work – private firm), only the administrative staff (99.9% female) bake. That is not to say every work environment is like this. My husband regularly bakes cookies and takes them to his non-legal shop,a nd I have sent desserts there as well. I would never, ever bring baked goods to my office. And I 100% disagree with the people who say that if baking affects your career, you work product isn't “good enough.” I have witnessed first-hand the way a female associate is placed on lesser assignments when she fulfills the more servant roles – baking, making copies for partners during meetings, etc.

    I agree that these rules are antiquated, barbaric, wrong, insert whatever angry adjective you want. But until I reach the top – partnership and an impressive client list – I am not in a position to break those rules. I follow the rules as best I can while turning in amazing work product. Once I get to the top, maybe then I can bring in my homemade banana pudding!

    As far as the responders who stated they would “never” work for a place that marginalized women like that? Well, welcome to private law firms in America. Most of us did not realize when we became attorneys that we were joining this club, but join we did. And now that I am here, I am not going to give up the dream of partnership in a major firm so I can bring cookies in on Fridays!

  39. Belle says:

    MC-I don't think I'm missing the point. This particular rules says: Women who bake are hurting their career choices by taking the feminine/subservient role.

    I say this isn't true for all offices. Sure there are some (like dm58 mentions) where it is. But I hate when people ascribe hard and fast rules for career advancement, because not all workplaces, careers or people are the same.

  40. SAM says:

    Belle, could we please have your sugar cookie recipe?

  41. prosecutordc says:

    dm58: is partnership in a firm really worth it if you work in the type of atmosphere that will penalize you for bringing in cookies on a Friday? That seems ridiculous. There is more to life than cookies and there is more to life than partnership and doing whatever it takes (compromising yourself) to get it. I'd say partnership is so hard to get these days…it really doesn't matter what you do.

  42. angrychicken says:

    The two female Lieutenant Colonels in my office bake for us and those are women you do not want to mess with. Nobody finds them subservient at all.

  43. Emily says:

    I think this is an argument that goes beyond “to bake or not to bake.” As everyone has discussed, a lot of that has to do with the culture of your workplace and the confidence and friendly words you bring with your sweets. If you use all your abilities to their fullest potential, I think that always looks good. Showing you're multi-facted and willing to do a little extra is great – no question.

    The bigger issue you've brought up, really, is whether or not women should embrace or mask their femininity in their attempts to survive and thrive in the corporate or political world. Really this has been a theme on your blog for a while, because you encourage women to embrace their femininity in the way they dress rather than boyish boringness that allows one to fit into the male dominant workplace.

    From my perspective, feminism has morphed beyond gender equality and into an idea that women should be the same as men. When a woman is good at or likes something that has become a stereotype I don't think that she, in striving for equality, needs to squelch her talents or tastes!

    If you like baking, you're good at it and it fits your workplace, bring in your cookies. Not because it will or won't get you that promotion, but becauase it's one of your talents, it's something you love, and it's a way to stand out in your office in a good way. Don't let someone's jaded perceptions on how women achieve success effect the way you live and work.

  44. lorrwill says:

    Private industry weighing in here (corporate consulting firm that supports gov't agencies). I am not the only baker in the office. So no one is going to think you are a closet Stepford wife for bringing in treats where I work.

    Beside, my president gets down right sulky if I don't bake something every now and then. Hell, it may be one of reasons he made me his assistant.

    I think your business barracuda 'friend' may be great and kicking people to the curb on her way up but she would die on the vine in my industry. Soft skills like getting along well with others, getting people to like you, knowing when to shut the heck up, etc. are as important as any technical skills. I know, I hear the conversations when the potential hires are being screened and the meeting participants are being discussed.

    As an aside, the guys occasionally bring in home baked treats too (but admit the significant others did the baking).

  45. dm58 says:

    Prosecutor DC – yes, partnership is absolutely worth it. and it is harder to achieve these days, but it is doable and I plan to do it. I don't recall saying I would “do whatever it takes” to make partner — but I will play by the rules. Why is this so bad? Why are we so angry at following rules? My husband joined the military – you know what, he had to cut his hair and shave his beard. Did he want to do that? No. Did he really “compromise himself?” No, he weighed the cost and decided to follow the rules to achieve what he wanted to achieve.

    I don't like that private law firms are a “boys' club.” And they really are in some ways, but I will point out that a man in my firm would gnaw off his arm before he would bake cookies and bring them to work. I don't think it is necessarily a gender issue. It is a power and role issue. The administrative staff in my firm bakes. If you bake, you align yourself with that. Just like if you are constantly note taking, making copies, and generally acting deferential, you will get pushed to a servant type role.

  46. Elle says:

    I bake (and cook) under duress.

    Baking is something I do for the holidays for my mother (still), and for my husband (because we both have a lot of food allergies, so if we want a sweet treat, we have to make it ourselves). I never bake or cook, or bring anything into the office if I don't have to (and by 'have to', I mean that I'll cook or bake for fundraisers, but not out of the goodness of my heart). There's a lot of women in our office who do bring in food and treats all the time, and they're all professionals (at a government agency). Then again, my office environment encourages food. Any excuse for a potluck is a good excuse. Mostly it's women who bring in the food, but there's a few men who like cooking/baking, and they participate as well.

    As for me, I just don't like being in the kitchen, but I don't have anything against women that do. In fact, in my office culture in the Pacific Northwest, I always get looked at very oddly by both men and women when I say that my husband does all the cooking in our house. (I, in fact, get kicked out of the kitchen. I burn water.)

  47. Laura says:

    I love to bake, and I just made some peanut butter cookies which I will take to my office where I am interning on Monday. It's a great gesture, and puts a smile on everyone's face!

  48. Belle says:

    I don't see any reason to hate on dm58's decision not to bake. Like I said, all workplaces are different and clearly she feels that hers is the kind where baking would be limiting to her career. I just think it's wrong to give one size fits all advice when more workplaces are pro-cookie than anti-cookie.

    She has ambition to be a partner, and there's no crime in that.

  49. Can't help it when the worng word is used says:


    I assume you meant that to be a singular possessive, yes?

    At least you didn't say “your” instead of “you're”. ;^)

  50. Belle says:

    Perhaps, if you “can't help it,” you should take more care to spell wrong correctly. I love it when people criticize my grammar/spelling with incorrectly used/spelled words of their own. Not so easy when you're typing in a hurry, is it?

  51. Liana says:

    After reading your post, most of the comments, and definitely over thinking and re-thinking this debate, I have come to this conclusion:
    Keep baking, Belle. 🙂

  52. dm58 says:

    thank you, Belle — I appreciate it.

    And I completely agree that we shouldn't try to attach a one size fits all standard to all workplaces. I think one of the ways to be successful is to accurately assess your workplace and adjust to those rules so that you don't hinder yourself by falling into stereotypes that do not help you (or advance you!).

    Great topic — and I see you are avoiding posting your sugar cookie recipe . . .

  53. Belle says:

    The recipe, like that for my family's secret candy, goes with me to my grave. Sorry, guys.

  54. Marie-Christine says:

    Now that I've had a knitting business, and can't very well wipe those years from my resume, it's clear that everyone will know that I know how to do girl stuff. And really I don't care if they know I can cook too. Well. But I see a big difference between having it mentioned very occasionally, and having the office plied with my creations. It's crucially important to make a distinction between the office and not. Just like the boys don't bring homemade bookshelves to the office even if they spend all their weekends in the workshop. I may wear a homemade scarf, but I don't point it out. I like to bake, I do it for friends. At the office, I do like the boys do, I buy croissants.

  55. Marie-Christine says:

    Now that I read other people's comments, I have an addendum: it's fine to bring in cookies if you're a guy AND the boss (and preferably straight). But for the rest of us, it's not. How about rephrasing this cookie thing as coffee – if you wouldn't make coffee for your coworkers, don't bake for them. Isn't that clearer?

  56. grlnextdoor says:

    Great post, Belle! I bake all the time for my office and I'm the only woman. It has yet to “compromise” my standing or authority, and in fact, I've found it to make the men especially more grateful for me than the others 🙂 Who needs to let your boobs hang out when you can bake food the boys commonly call their “crack” that helped them get through the day.

  57. Sam says:

    Here I am, chiming in with my $0.02 a year late…

    IMHO, women baking has different conentations than men baking. Culture (infuriatingly) says: Women baking/cooking = nurturing, domestic. Men baking/cooking = ART!

    For example, the French pastry chef competitions are 100% men (okay, just the one I saw in that documentary). It's a very serious, no fun, high stakes business. Ditto gourment restaurant chefs, also predominantly male, whose recipies take days to prepare and would be laughable to try at home.

    Wheras women, historically, have the cultural expectation of being able to produce delicious cookies and hearty meals to feed their families, neighbours, etc.

    So the difference is:

    “You like the hors d'oeuvres, do you? Well! On the first day, I infused the oil with saffron and set the meat to cure…”


    “Oh, this old recipe? Lands sakes, I just whipped it up! No bother at all; welcome to the neighbourhood.”

  58. Sam says:

    That said: Those cultural conentations are total BS and deserve a good challenging. Good on you for baking. Baking is awesome.

  59. BC says:

    This is a great post, even a year later. I'm a female staffer who is terrible at baking. But, sometimes I make chocolate chip cookies and bring them in and my office full of guys loves it. I feel like I fit in perfectly with them – not as “one of the guys,” but as me. They each have things they do in their own ways to make the office better, like buying a round of drinks at the end of the week, or coordinating our lunch orders, or something else. It's also worth noting that I work for a pretty high ranking woman Member of Congress, and she brings us cookies and other baked goods whenever she's in town. No one can say that's held her back.

  60. […] Discuss: To Bake or Not to Bake (What do you think? Leave a comment!) […]

    • Naticat says:

      I think the argument is flawed – just because the women she has come across that choose not to bake, also cannot cook – does not mean this is always the case. I am a terrific cook/baker (if i may say so myself 😉 and am also relatively successful – but I choose to separate the two and only cook for my husband and friends and not bring endless supplies of treats in for my work colleagues. I am sure they would enjoy them, but watching the way people treat others who do the same and those who DO get ahead – I can’t say it would help me other than maybe have people be a bit nicer in the workplace. If you ask yourself honestly – have you ever seen anyone promoted because they baked some nice cookies??? (Working in a bakery doesn’t count) If you’re not particularly ambitious, then hats off to you and it’s definitely a nice gesture, but it’s probably not helping your career and costing you a few bucks into the bargain…

  61. […] Discuss: To Bake or Not to Bake (What do you think? Leave a comment!) […]

  62. Nel says:

    I work in a women dominated field and so there’s always baked goods and I’m here for it. It’s more like baking is a love language for some, and I appreciate that. It’s not for me, though I appreciate them and always let them know. Sometimes it’s nice to try recipies out on coworkers if your planning a bigger thing down the road. Anyway, it’s a nice and sweet thing and brings us together. But there’s no pressure, no like hard feelings for those who don’t participate, no judgement.

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