A comment on a recent post interested me enough that I’m turning it into its own post, because I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on it. In commenting on yesterday’s post from a letter-writer who feared that a cupcake had set off an unwanted flirtation with a colleague, Kelly O wrote:
Can I just say that I read somewhere that women need to be be careful about bringing too many baked goods to the office, or otherwise blurring the lines between professional and domestic, and I think this might be a good object lesson in how that blurred boundary can cause problems?
I am one of the cupcake makers for our office. We take turns making them for birthdays, and it’s kind of a fun thing for us all. However, I do not bring them for random occasions. It just seems to add to that whole potential issue of “mothering” that some bring to the workplace. (It’s also why I don’t keep a candy dish, or put up too many decorations at my desk – it’s not a social circle, it’s not my living room, it’s my cubicle.)
It’s true that there’s advice out there that women should avoid bringing in baked goods to work, so that they don’t risk their domestic skills blocking out their professional ones. In fact, here’s a Forbes article about it.
My own take: To some extent, I suspect that this is a piece of advice from an earlier age, where women had a harder time being taken seriously at work. Personally, I’ve brought in a ton of baked goods to my office with no ill effects. (I like to bake but don’t really have a sweet tooth, so I’ve always seen my office as a good place to rid myself of the cupcakes that I randomly made the night before.) However, it’s worth noting that I have enough stereotypically “masculine” professional traits (blunt, assertive, kind of a hard-ass, and not a sugar-coater) that I’ve never seen a need to worry that bringing in baked goods would make anyone see me as their caretaker. And I also know that if someone did start treating me that way, I’d speak up loudly and immediately. In other words, baking some brownies isn’t going to turn me into the office mom.
However, if someone struggles with being taken seriously at work, is always asked to get the coffee for meetings, and gets stuck doing everyone’s dishes in the office kitchen, then yeah, maybe bringing in cookies with any regularity is something you want to avoid.
That’s just a guess though, and I find this whole question fascinating. What do others think? Oooh, and if you’re willing to note your age in your response, I’d be interested to see if there’s a generational divide on this issue.