should women avoid baking for their colleagues?

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.

{ 249 comments… read them below }

  1. The Editor*

    If you ever do a contest, I hope the prize is to be a fly on the wall when someone starts treating you as a caretaker. :-) Heck, you could probably sell raffle tickets to that one.

    Put me down for a roll of tickets, please.

  2. Anonymous*

    I would prefer my co-workers not leave treats in the break room as I have no will power and am trying to watch my calorie intake.

  3. Joey*

    As a gen x’er don’t think bringing in baked goods defines you as the mom of the office but I do think it can contribute to it if there are other mommy things you’re doing. But I’ve never really seen a hard ass that brought in cookies either.

  4. Karen*

    I’m speaking as a 25 year old professional woman.

    I find myself in a similar situation to AAM – I bring in baked goods frequently, but I also have a mix of masculine and feminine traits (assertive, blunt, very independent, etc). So I doubt that anyone sees me as an overtly feminine “caretaker figure” either.

    If a colleague viewed me this way just because I was kind enough to bring in treats for everyone, I’d be very much inclined to snatch the cupcake right out of their hand! If I’m great at my job, and I keep a professional attitude at the office, who cares if I wear skirts, cute heels, and bring in treats? This idea that women must be stone-faced pantsuit wearers who can’t do nice things for others is extremely outdated.

  5. PayrollGoddess*

    Hi Alison,

    My heroine extraordinaire…when I grow up I want to be just like you!!!

    I’m 42, and the only never-married, childless female in my HR department. I enjoy baking and do it occasionally. I’ve never gotten a caretaker vibe off anyone…due to my “spinster” status, I mostly get looks of disbelief and extreme gratitude for the deliciousness I provide. When I present said deliciousness, my standard disclaimer is “food soothes the savage beast.”

    Keep rockin’!


    1. Karen*

      PG…don’t ever use the word spinster! I hope I am lucky enough to still be unmarried and childfree at 42 :)

      Interesting that your colleagues are ‘surprised’ that you bring in cupcakes though. You’d think that they’d expect it more since you don’t have a family to cook for every night.

      1. Stacy*

        Maybe what she means by “suprised” is “ridulously excited beyond words”. That’s how every office I’ve ever been in has treated the appearance of cupcakes. :)

        1. Jaime*

          Exactly. You’d think I’d invented cake the way some of my coworkers react in ecstasy when I go to the “trouble” of baking a box cake mix and bringing it in.

      2. Heather*

        If someone called me a spinster I’d rip their head off. yes I’m 46 and not married and child free. And proud of it.


        1. Amina*

          Seriously, what I see of being married and having kids is so not what it’s all cracked up to be… Yay Singletons!

        2. Long Time Admin*

          I use the phrase “old maid” to refer to myself. I refer to other unmarried people as “single”.

          If “Spinster” is the worst thing people call you, call yourself “Lucky”.

        3. Lynne*

          I call myself child-free AND spouse-free. Some of us are happily single-by-choice! I feel like our culture overly idealizes the married/partnered state, and treats it like something we are *all* supposed to aspire to, especially women, regardless of what would actually make us happy. Like how it used to expect all women to want to be mothers. Neither marriage nor parenthood is one-size-fits-all!

          …My workplace is almost all women, and someone brings in baked goods two or three times a month. I do too, occasionally (age 31 here, and I like baking – esp. if I don’t have to eat all of it!) Never occurred to me that this could contribute to reinforcing outdated gender roles, but then my team is a pretty feminist bunch.

          1. Nonymous*

            I’m 43, married, no kids (whew!). I work in a very, very male dominated business – a lot of good old boys, actually. I have a coworker who believes he is the second coming (goes so far as to mimic the dress and body language of the boss). His stay-at-home-with-five-kids-and-one-on-the-way wife treats all of the men in our department like they are her kids – sending goodies, stopping up to show off baby and make cutesy talk, decorate his office, etc., all encouraged by her oh so proud husband. Good for them… AT HOME. It completely reinforces the stereotypes around our office and makes it really difficult for the few women in our department.
            We have vendors bringing in doughnuts, and company purchased birthday cake once a month. That’s plenty!

        4. Anonymous_J*

          I refer to myself as a “cat lady” (NOT “crazy cat lady”–just “cat lady.” ) When people ask if we have kids, I say “No, just cats.”

          I’ve been childfree since I was 8 years old, but I LOVE me a good man! ;)

  6. Anonymous*

    Mid-thirties, non profit. I have no problem with people bringing in food. Sometimes it is random, and sometimes it’s for an event, but I’ve nver thought less of someone who did so. Nothing makes your morning brighter than surprise breakfast tacos and ice tea!

  7. Dana*

    Late 20s, university, never even thought about it. No one does this here- wish they would, though! I could use a brownie right now. Oh, and I work with almost all women.

  8. Piper*

    I think this can be a geographical thing, too. I live in an area where I’ve experienced gender discrimination and female stereotypes are alive and well.

    Just two examples:
    1) I worked somewhere where all woman in the office received flowers for Administrative Professionals Day that had a little sign in that said “to a great secretary,” regardless of the woman’s rank or title. Someone failed to warn me about this my first year working there and I came in and found this little gift on my desk and was extremely offended. No one understood why I thought this was a problem.

    2) At the place I worked after that, the idiot in the cubicle next to me would constantly ask the women in the office if they were going to stay home and raise their children because he thought it was wrong of them not to. Again, no one saw this as a problem, and no one put a stop to it, either.

    So, where I live, I still struggle to assert my worth as a woman in an office environment. I’m a special snowflake, too, because I have traits like AAM of assertive, outspoken, kind of a hard-ass, etc, that men around these here parts don’t take too kindly to. So would I bring in baked goods? Only if I could smash them in the face of my sexist coworkers.

      1. Ali*

        A friend of mine reports this happens at the law firm (in a large metro, non-South area) that she works. All the partners in the firm are male, and all the other workers are female. All the women are therefore lower than the men, and all are treated as administrative secretaries, regardless of their actual position. What makes it even worse is the person who orders all the flowers is not one of the male partners, but – you guessed it – the actual administrative secretary.

      2. Chocolate Teapot*

        Well I know that in Russia, it is the done thing to give flowers on International Women’s Day, so maybe someone got confused with the florist?

        1. Piper*

          No, definitely no confusion. This guy had been doing this for years and years with the same messages on the same day. The only confusion involved was everyone else’s when I didn’t think it was appropriate. But that year that it happened to me was the last year it happened, presumably because I pointed out that it was not appropriate at all.

          1. Piper*

            Oops, sorry Chocolate Teapot, I see you were probably responding to Ali. I somehow missed her comment!

      3. Heather*

        I worked at a place like that too. Well we all got taken out for lunch for Admin day even tho I work in Accounting and am not an Admin. No one understood why it bugged me either.

        1. Piper*

          I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only who has experienced this. It makes me feel less crazy when I think about these insane experiences I’ve had. (Side note: I was not in an admin position, either.)

          1. LJL*

            My BFF experienced this too. You’re in no way alone. And no, she wasn’t an administrative assistant.

      4. Anonymous*

        I can’t either! This is… ugh… I can’t even put into words how WRONG that is on so many levels. OMG.

    1. Karen*

      I’m in disbelief at the man scolding women for not staying home with their children. AND the fact that men don’t appreciate an assertive woman at the office! I find that having a mix of traits helps you relate to both men and women very well.

      I’m sorry to hear that you have to deal with this.

      1. Piper*

        I’m not even kidding, you guys. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. I’m pretty sure I’ve worked in offices who went by “The Michael Scott School of Business” and pretty much learned all of their office “etiquette” from watching The Office.

    2. Joey*

      Small town, family owned businesses? Those are the only places I’ve seen that kind of behavior with any regularity. I can’t imagine this happening in any other circumstance unless it’s outside of the US.

      1. Piper*

        Small city, lots of rural areas around it. Not small companies. At all. Have I mentioned how grateful I am to be relocating out of here?

        1. Joey*

          I don’t know what it is about small towns. I worked in two smallish towns after school for about 8 yrs and no matter what I did I always felt some tension amongst the business crowd against anyone who wasn’t a white male. You rarely saw a female in non traditional jobs or a minority in a position of significance. And this is in a college town where you would think theres a more educated/diverse workforce. When I moved to a large city about 30 miles away the difference was night and day.

          1. Piper*

            Oh, exactly! Where I live is a small city with several colleges, actually, but go figure. I’ve continually watched white males get promoted and promoted and promoted while women and other minorities sit back and watch regardless of skills, accomplishments, and expertise. It’s truly unbelievable that it can still be happening in 2012, but oh boy, it sure does.

    3. Another Anon*

      I so understand this! As a 20 year IT professional, in my latest job it took two years before I stopped being mistaken for Gal Friday. It’s like walking into the 1970s every morning! When I speak up in meetings a good many fellows chuckle in a patronizing way and ignore what I said. “Girl” is used rather often as an insult in our office just as it is (was?) in the military. So I play down my gender as much as possible. I never wear a dress or dressy shoes and I notice many of my women colleagues dress unfemininely as well. Although I enjoy making really excellent cookies (baking is my thing!) if I bring treats, I’ll buy cardboardy ones from the store that cost twice as much. I didn’t have to check my gender at the door to be treated respectfully in my last job, but work cultures differ. This is NOT a home-made cookies kind of place.

    4. ARM2008*

      Wow, you have women in the office? Advanced compared to the small town I grew up in where it’s all still girls working in the office…

    1. Laura M.*

      Female, 20. Ya a lot of treats are brought into the office, and I love/hate it. I’ve never thought twice about it being motherly to bake for people, it just seems nice… People bring in treats enough at my office that every once and a while I buy a box of timbits, because I never bake but still like to contribute once in a blue moon… My supervisor does the same thing with other treat type things…

    2. E*

      Male 49
      Like to cook, have brought in home made English muffins, home made bagels, heck I even cooked a turkey at work for a pot luck (in a rotisserie, smelled up the whole office wonderfully for the “Men’s Cookoff”- large place with 600+ people)

  9. taivins*

    Mid-twenties, female, academia. The act of bringing baked goods makes me think the giver is a) making an effort to be nice and b) sharing an interesting part of their personal life. In my work environment both being nice and sharing personal info is ok, but I can see how it could be a problem in more competitive or formal work environments. I would never judge someone’s “motherliness” (male or female) merely on their baked good provision though; I have had many hard-ass coworkers whom I would never cross provide me with delicious homemade nomnoms.

  10. Stacy*

    I’m a 27 year old woman who has worked in non-profit arts administration and in animal welfare, (with a brief stint working with disaster victims abroad). I’m not much of a baker, (I sometimes like to think I am, and then quickly realize that I’m the first person to seek out store bought treats when the occation calls for a cake, etc.). HOWEVER, I have considered part of my job to be “hand holding” in almost every position I’ve been in. Frankly, I like it. It’s what I’m good at. When I look back, I realize that ever since my first job at 15 years old, I’ve self-selected myself into positions where supporting, encouraging, and cheerleading others is big. I’m also a feminist – and I don’t see a conflict between my beliefs in equality and doing one of the things that I excel at.

    I don’t think women should be expected to be nurturing, and there are probably people older than myself who are going to point out the disadvantages I don’t see now of being such a nurturing “youngster” of a woman, but my warmth and my ability to make a friend out of just about anyone has been a huge advantage to me thus far. I love people and I love to show it. I’m not hurt when someone doesn’t like me, but I like consumer/customer/public facing roles because I’m so gosh darn hard to hate. (Unless you hate the phrase “gosh darn” then go ahead and drink the hater-ade.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that type of professional nurturing is a hugely valuable skill. It’s only if you start to see people not taking you seriously (not giving you good assignments that you want, not rewarding you financially when they are rewarding other people, etc.) that you’d want to think about how to counteract that without losing the nurturing traits that make you good at what you do. But it doesn’t sound like you’re having that issue right now!

    2. KellyK*

      Hey, I think rejecting the idea that stereotypically feminine traits are bad is a major part of feminism. Nothing wrong with nurturing!

      I think there’s a huge difference between self-selecting for nurturing roles and being pigeonholed as the nurturer because of your gender.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly. I think this is one of the really good ways that feminism has evolved — we don’t need to be “stone-faced pantsuit wearers who can’t do nice things for others” (as Karen said nicely above) because it’s not about trying to make people forget our gender. It’s the fact that our gender is just fine as is, and not inherently unprofessional or less capable.

        Although I do like pantsuits.

  11. 34 year old female*

    Has anyone read “Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office”? Baked goods are a BIG no-no. And I don’t agree with “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. ” There is still a LOT of sexism in the workplace.

    I’ve never seen a male coworker bring in cupcakes. Honestly, I see no positives and only negatives with being the “girl who brings in cupcakes for the office”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve always thought that for me, it actually might have been a positive, because it lowered the intimidation factor that was there for some people. And no one saw me as the cupcake girl, believe me :) If you make hiring and firing decisions, you’re not the cupcake girl. You’re the dragon lady.

      But I’d be interested in hearing more about how you’ve seen this play out. Can you tell us more?

      1. 34 year old female*

        If you’re not the one hiring and firing (and I’m not) … and the ONLY one bringing in baked goods when no men in the office ever do …. THAT’S when I’d be concerned about being the “cupcake girl”. I like to keep professional boundaries and baking cupcakes just isn’t professional IMO.

      2. Anonanon*

        Why do I have a feeling that this whole thing about ‘dont’ bring cupcakes otherwise you’ll be seen as mom-at-work’ was started by a woman/women who can’t bake? I can’t help but feel that there’s a bit of a jealousy going on here that someone could be a favorite for bringing in great home-baked stuff, the way the saying goes: hm. what’s that again, about getting to the heart thru the stomach (I can’t remember the exact saying was)?
        And I’m sorry to say, women can be very cruel and judgemental against their own.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ack, I really don’t think that’s why! It’s because it used to play into stereotypes that were very damaging to women in the workplace and which are significantly less of an issue now.

        2. kb*

          ” women can be very cruel and judgemental against their own.”

          yes, because the patriarchy sets us up to compete against one another. It’s called ‘divide and conquer.”

          I mean, seriously? Trying to pull the “b*tches just jealous” card? No.

      3. K*

        I really like your point AAM. I have occasionally used baked goods in the office this way too. More as an icebreaker and way to go chat with people in the office, particularly if I have been a little secluded in my work recently. Doubly important if you are in fact the ball buster who doesn’t want people to be intimidated by them all the time (some of the time is just fine, thank you).

        Maybe part of it is my age. I am 28. The only time I found it a bit of an issue was when I wasn’t doing it. I was taking over the desk of a notorious baker in the office and an older, fatherly colleague who was sharing my office dubbed me a “bad Joyce” for a month. I think that was the reason I didn’t go out of my way to bring anything – pure old fashioned stubbornness. We found a happy middle ground when we used our manager’s cigarette breaks as an excuse to get ice cream for the team.

    2. Julie*

      I’ve never seen a man bring in cupcakes, either, though one of my former colleagues used to bring in artisanal bakery loaves several times a week for the department. It was his breakfast: he got first slice, and then everyone else took what they wanted. (For the record: bought at a bakery, not home-baked.)

    3. D*

      That is one of my favorite career books. I interpret the book as saying that a woman should be aware of how she’s presenting herself and make sure that she’s not doing most of the behaviors. In other words, if you already speak quietly, play with your hair, and don’t speak up in meetings, then baking things and bringing them to the office will not add to your professional image. I agree with this.

      I also think you should know your office and the role you want to take on. My goal is to be a hard-hitting litigator some day. I don’t really want to soften that image because I’m young and inexperienced (and maybe already seen as the firm’s collective daughter or little sister), so I am never going to bring home-made cookies in. Some of the equity partners, on the other hand, might bring in treats from time to time. They are established in their roles and don’t have to worry about being seen as that girl who brings cupcakes.

        1. 37-year old female CPA*


          If you’re already in a position of power, you can get away with it without being seen as the “cupcake girl”. (Doesn’t hurt to be a guy.)

          If you’re low on the totem pole and/or early in your career, it just reinforces girlish stereotypes that you’d want to avoid in the workplace. Few men bake for their office, so I think male higher-ups in particular may take the cupcake and then judge you for not spending your free time investing in your career.

          My boss likes to pretend that he reads the tax code on the weekends. The truth may be that he’s watching football. However, he’s not bringing in cupcakes on Monday to show where his time went.

          1. 55 year old geek*

            Totally! If male upper management brings dessert, I’m glad to pawn off my leftovers on the office (saves eating them all myself..). Otherwise, forget it. It’s just too dicey, and you don’t need even one jerk thinking he can act out like you’re mom just because you can bake better than he does.

          2. kmr*

            “If you’re low on the totem pole and/or early in your career, it just reinforces girlish stereotypes that you’d want to avoid in the workplace.”

            I think this is point on.

            I’m in my 20’s and don’t think my peers would take me less seriously if I brought in cookies… but I’m afraid that older higher-ups could get the wrong idea.

            It’s the exact same reasoning I use for not taking part in the “nail art” trend (I mean *in general* – not at work) – if tastefully done my age-peers would see it as trendy, but I think it could send the wrong message about who I am to older people.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think that’s the key point: How are you currently perceived? And are you trying to be taken more seriously? For some people, this won’t be an issue, where for others it might be. So like most things, it’s not about a hard-and-fast rule. (And thank god for that, because the world needs more cupcakes.)

      2. Jamie*

        “That is one of my favorite career books. I interpret the book as saying that a woman should be aware of how she’s presenting herself and make sure that she’s not doing most of the behaviors. In other words, if you already speak quietly, play with your hair, and don’t speak up in meetings, then baking things and bringing them to the office will not add to your professional image.”

        Can we revoke the rule against playing with one’s hair? I don’t do it in public because my mother trained it out of me – but it’s my go to move to deal with stress. When I can’t do that my foot shakes like it’s mixing paint.

        I just really want that rule to go away.

        1. Steve M*

          I didn’t even know there was a rule against playing with my hair – never came up for my mother to train me out of since long hair was forbidden for her boys – but once I graduated there wasn’t much she could do about it. I’ve never really cared too much for following silly behavior rules like this anyhow, so not about to stop playing with it now either.

          male/34, hair longer than most of my female co-workers (and all of the male ones).

          1. A.X.*

            No one thinks YOU are a brainless bimbo when you do it though.

            In the cultural imagery of “women not to be taken seriously” is a young woman dressed borderline innappropriately smacking gum with long hair and twirling it around her fingers. The simple act of twirling is enough for that cultural image to be conjured in the minds of many people even if you’re not dressed innappropriately, young, or smacking your gum.

            It’s a bullshit rule. But it’s not a logical rule (otherwise we would be cool to ignore it since it is patently ridiculous).

            1. Jamie*

              This cracked me up! Maybe I should start doing it. It could be fun to be seen as a brainless bimbo instead of what is the undoubtedly harsher image I have now.

              That’s what it is though – on women it’s seen as coquettish even though for a lot of us it’s just a nervous habit. It’s the same thing with giggling. At work if something is funny I use my work laugh, because my real laugh is rather giggly.

              This thread is depressing…life was a lot easier before I had to care about the perceptions of other people.

              1. Diane*

                “This thread is depressing…life was a lot easier before I had to care about the perceptions of other people.”

              2. Editor*

                More than a decade ago, I was at a professional seminar with a lot of teachers. One woman I respected was designated to write discussion points on the easel while the group talked, and she ended up kind of moderating the discussion. While she talked, she took a thick strand of her above-the-shoulder hair, circled it around and made a loose knot, then pulled it apart and did it again. My daughter had had her as a teacher and had never seen this behavior in class.

                Whenever I remember her, I don’t remember the well-groomed, attractive, gray-haired authoritative teacher, I remember the knot-tying and the inner-six-year-old it revealed. I still feel incredulous.

      3. Anonymouse*

        40 female. Because I’m established in my career, I feel I can do things like bring in baked goods and make the coffee with no ill effects. It also helps that the president is male and makes the coffee too.

        However, I would advise women in their 20s, specifically in their first job or two, to think very carefully about the image they want to build and how they want to be perceived. I’ve seen it go south too much. Suddenly they are asked to bring in baked goods for every event. Before they know it, they are planning every luncheon and office party. Awesome. You’re popular! The CEO loves you! You get yanked off real work to plan Cinco de Mayo! You get great performance reviews because you’re such a team player! And yet, what skills are you building, and what the hell are you going to put on your resume? Where’s the career in that?

        When a new colleague is brought round the office and introduced, do you really want to be introduced as “This is Sheila,… makes great brownies,” because it’s the first thing that pops into their mind?

        Think carefully. It’s much easier to wait and say “yes” in the future, than it is to say ‘no” in the present.

    4. kris*

      I may be the exception to your rule. I have on many occassions made cookies/cakes/pies for the office. I’m a 29 year old straight white male. While I have had people suprised by the fact that a man of my age knows how to bake and chose to do so for the office, I’ve never had any type of negative response to it. Also I have never seen a problem like that occur when women in the office do it. It could be a difference in our corporate culture or the fact that we all respect each other because we all have the same hectic duties and know that to do our jobs is difficult.

    5. Heather*

      I have. We have a guy at work that regularly brings in cupcakes. And he’s not an admin either. He’s the Training Manager.

      1. Anonanon*

        I found it a bit weird that people keep talking about Admin as if it’s the lowest position at work. I’m an admin (executive assistant to be more precised), and in most places I work, it’s actually considered a powerful position. Think about this: you are your executive’s right hand. I manage their calendar, often times tell them what to do, I was asked for my opinion about person A, B, etc. And we make awesome salary figures, either in the high 90’s or low 100’s. So yeah, it’s great to be an Admin, although I have to say I’m not big into those huge flowers and expensive gift certificate my boss gets me for the Professional Admin Day (or whatever they call it). It’s too much of a Hallmark Holiday for me. I do get awesome giftcards from my boss throughout the year, for my birthday, christmas, etc.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think it’s more about the fact that admin jobs used to be the only jobs open to women in most offices, and so women are bristling at being treated as if that’s still the case.

        2. Jamie*

          I didn’t read the comments that way – I took it as more of a nod to the fact that the food duties tend to fall on admin in a lot of offices.

          I know I’ve said this before, but I firmly believe that a good admin is way more valuable to an organization than most of the middle management wonks they support. The idiots who see someone answering the phone or ordering lunch as if that’s the sum of their duties makes this assumption at their own peril.

          There is a wide range of complexity in admin positions. A good admin knows a lot about a lot of things and has a broader scope of knowledge than many positions. Also, it’s freaking hard. When I started working I was an office manager – and believe me when I tell you it was a much tougher gig for me than IT. The amount of multi-tasking involved not to mention having to do it while being nice to everyone was brutal.

          I worked harder preparing by previous bosses for meetings (business plans, financial statements, capacity plans, etc.) than I’ve ever worked preparing for my own meetings now. I also believed I was more familiar with the content than some of the bosses who would present it as their own work.

          People should not underestimate the position.

          I think where people were incredulous upthread about an office where all the women were given gifts on admin assistant day. The issue isn’t that it’s offensive to be an admin – its the mindset of a group of men in the office not bothering to learn people’s job functions or differentiating the women from each other.

    6. Nichole*

      At my last job, there was a middle aged man (maybe early 50s) who was an excellent baker and often brought in homemade sweets. His peanut brittle is legen..wait for it…dary. Another lady in maybe her 40s always brought back a local treat when she travelled or a traditional dish when another culture celebrated holidays. Honestly, it never occured to me to cast people who brought treats in a negative light because I thought it was awesome (I’m a late 20s female). Being a good cook made you stand out in a positive way. I really miss those potlucks.

    7. Karyn*

      I’ve got a male coworker who constantly brings in baked goods. Yes, actual baked goods that he makes, not just cupcakes laying around from his wife having had a bake sale.

      Let me just tell you, when I worked at an accounting firm in administrative support, there was one weekend right before the tax deadline where I came in on a Saturday armed with banana bread, cupcakes, cookies, and a good deal of coffee, and I got a HUGE Christmas bonus that year. If that means I don’t get a promotion, fine. But my coworkers were happy, and were happy to work with me on projects – that counts for me more than any bonus or raise I could get.

    8. Esra*

      Maybe it depends on the workplace? I’ve worked on several male-dominated teams and find that while the guys don’t seem to bring in baked goods as much, they do bring in fancy candy or things from their favourite bakeries.

    9. Anonymous*

      Female, 30 (in an overly male dominated profession)

      We have both men and women who love to bake and both sexes bring in baked goods. I work in architecture so maybe creatives think differently. My husbands office (architecture too) has chili cook off competitions. What’s the big deal, people like to eat. These things contribute to a good office dynamic. Cooking isn’t feminine as several chefs are men. There are even men pastry chefs out in the world.

      Being overly motherly and asserting yourself are two opposites. I don’t see baking as being motherly as long as it fits in with the office culture. It also seems a given since I, AAM, and other women can both bake and assert ourselves as professionals.

  12. Erica B*

    I will bring in something, like Allison if I have too much at home after baking for something else. I do usually bring in something around my birthday. My boss’s birthday is conveniently the day after mine, and his name is Erich. Its funny, but I digress. I think the whole thing about bringing in goodies depends on where you work. I work in the same room as 4 other people including my boss, and if I bring something in its left near the door is the “common area” I.e. Next to the phone. Co workers change frequently where I work as we have graduate & Ph.D students who are part of our lab. Food is interesting because as a result we are culturally diverse, people have allergies or strict dietary needs, and the stuff that is brought in has a warning for ingredients. I don’t think, however that bringing in snacks means your too domestic for work though. Never actually crossed my mind.. And I’m 31

  13. Anonymous*

    I love this question. Female middle manager in her mid-forties here. I totally bring goodies for my office (all women, if that matters) but am much more hesitant to make things for meetings involving other managers. I noticed that when we had potluck events, most of the women made nice stuff and most of the men either bought something or had their wives fix it. I don’t know if it actually makes a difference in how women are percieved, but around that time I started picking up stuff at the grocery store even though I love to cook and bake.

  14. smallness*

    30, woman working in IT in academia. I used to bake a lot more than I do now, primarily because I’m trying to eat healthier and help my colleagues to do that. I manage about 60 college aged students doing work-study jobs, so food just seems like the cost of doing business. At least in my current role, it doesn’t cost me to be seen as a caretaker, because I still take care of business. When I have to deal with problems, I can take a “I care about you, so that’s why I’m telling you you can’t do this” stance. So far it’s worked for me, but I can see why it wouldn’t in every work place.

  15. Dawn*

    F, 28

    I think that bringing in baked goods has actually raised my esteem around the office. If someone worked in a particularly backwards office I could see people taking it as “mothering” or whatever, but seriously, anyone who thinks that way needs a kick in the shins. Or Ex-Lax in their brownies.

    1. Tim C.*

      Male 44 yo: I am new where I work and bring in bagels on Fridays. I buy them, not make them. I did this, like Dawn, exactly to improve my image among co-workers as I am introverted and am perceived as aloof. All I can say is it works. I am now known as that wonderful bagel guy. BTW – I really hate having to do this but feel as though it is somehow required since every other person brings some type of food on a daily basis. Remember the post on excessive celebrations?

  16. PayrollGoddess*

    @ Karen, Stacy…the disbelief is indeed disbelief – that I’m capable of producing food. It’s hysterical. For our holiday potluck, I brought in crudite and got a reaction out of that. Um, folks, I can cut up a head of celery and open bags of carrots…doh! Therefore, I like to really, really needle them and sometimes bring in an awesome poke cake. :) And I wear my spinster status proudly!

    Back to the salts…Have a great day all.


  17. Ashley*

    I am someone who has always brought treats in, and it has never put me in an uncomfortable situation. I actually did it yesterday, and I am only beginning week three of a new job. I do work in education where it is predominately female and people tend to be grateful for free things, but I think I would continue to bring things in any environment.

  18. Gene*

    Mid-50s male in an all male office (plant has females, our section is all male).

    We regualrly bring in goodies to share; heck, we occasionally have pancake or waffle feeds in the morning and even though we are outside the official delivery area, the local pizza place will deliver to us. Over at the lab there is always some sort of snack/munchie on a file cabinet (in the office area, food/drink never go into a wastewater lab…) Usually something left out to share in the main lunchroom too.

    Is it any mystery why I’m dieting? It’s not easy, but I’ve passed up on the goodies for a while.

  19. majigail*

    Female manager, 30’s nonprofit sector. While we’ve never had any problems with overt sexism, the men in the office rarely brought in treats to reciprocate. Each week, someone different is assigned to bring in treats for staff meeting so the “load” is shared.

  20. Laura*

    I suspect that, like many other things, a lot of it’s going to depend on where you work and who you work with. I’ve been lucky enough to work at casual companies with people who were/are laid back, friendly, and value their co-workers based on their work. I’ve always brought in baked goods (for the opposite reason from Alison: I have quite the sweet tooth and will actually eat all 4 dozen cookies if they stay at my house!) and the only reaction I’ve ever received besides YUM! is one of surprise that I’m at all domestic, because I’m also super geeky. Most of the places I’ve worked have had guys bringing in homemade (by them) treats, too.

    I wonder if it also has something to do with the attitude of the person baking. With the exception of the office Thanksgiving potluck and the one time I baked my boss a birthday cake (a surprise, my idea — she’d seen it on the web and wanted one and I wanted to try making one), I’ve never baked “for the office” or presented my baked goods as if I had. It’s always been more “hey, I baked this — please eat it so I don’t”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s an interesting point. I don’t think I ever said at work, “I baked you all some cupcakes.” It was more, “I made these and now they’re in the kitchen, so please eat them.”

      1. Ali*

        Yes, I think there’s a huge difference in “I baked these all for you” rather than, “hey, I baked, here are the leftovers”.

        1. Joey*

          I think you’re on to something there. Ones I’m doing you a favor the other is you’re doing me a favor.

          1. Jamie*

            This is exactly it. The leftover mindset is nice – it’s there if you want it, but no pressure.

            The people who bake “for you” leave them on your desk, ask if you liked them…get offended if you don’t take one…those people can turn cupcakes into more work than work.

            FWIW I don’t eat anything people bring in from home. Not because I’m Howard Hughes (although kinda) but I don’t like 90%+ of food I’ve never tried before – so the odds are it’s going in my trash and it’s such a waste. Why bakers take this personally I will never know – but they need to stop following me around with homemade paczki telling me that even though I’ve hated all paczki I’ve been forced to try for the last four decades that yours are different.

            They aren’t different, they aren’t ever different. Just accept that my food weirdness predates my employment and don’t take it personally.

            1. Anonymous*

              haha – I (too?) am super picky and get bugged by people a lot about trying foods. I finally started saying this: “I spit out foods I don’t like.” Works like a charm.

            2. ThatHRGirl*

              Paczki!! What area of the country are you from? And for the record… I do not like homemade paczki.

              I am definitely not a baker and more of the dozen-bagel-and-cream-cheese or starbucks-coffee-bucket-thing bringer.

              1. Jamie*

                Chicago – and with my last name people would assume I’d be all over paczki but alas – homemade, store bought, made in trees by magical elves…yuck!

            3. HR Gorilla*

              Oh my gosh! So agree with this. I have a new coworker who brings in food 2-3 times a week and walks to each desk in our department (there are six of us) and personally hands us one of what she’s brought in (which will usually be along the lines of donuts, cinnamon rolls, breakfast burritos, and several times, handfuls of individually-wrapped bubble gum), along with a napkin.

              I love/dread it: it’s a nice little treat, but the frequency and the hand-delivery is starting to feel …odd. Also, a couple times she’s made comments aloud to no one in particular, such as ‘HR Gorilla didn’t say whether she liked the burritos. Guess she didn’t like them!’ which of course then provokes a ‘no! they were super yummy!’ and I feel like we’re in junior high. And don’t get me started on the fact that, contrary to what my outside looks like these days, I do not want to keep eating junky sugary carbs every day. Pretty soon I’m going to have to tell her I don’t care for the treat-of-the-day, and withstand the possible sulking afterwards.

            4. A.W.*

              That’s so funny – I’m from the west coast, and never heard of paczki until moving to Chicago a few years ago. This year I bought some for the office because I wanted one (or two) and thought it’d be nice – man, paczki are Serious Business in Chicago. That bakery was packed.

              Oh, and the reason I did it this year is because last year, in the office I used to work at, one of the men in the office brought them for the office. I’d never had one before then.

        2. anth*

          Sub-30 female — at my old job (which was 75% women?) plenty of women would bake and bring things in to the office. Often I would send an email that says “There are leftovers in my office please come grab some.”

  21. Katrina*

    26 – professional female – financial planning and investments

    I have literally never thought about it. I dress how I want, bring what treats and goodies I want, and do my job to the best of my ability.

    If my coworkers don’t feel they can depend on me, trust my work or give me critical feed back, that’s not going to be due to me bringing some DELICIOUS pumpkin spice cookies to work :)


    1. Katrina*

      I’m also about two steps away from that corner office. You can be nice and get ahead. You can wear a skirt and be taken seriously. And when your boss refers to you as, “Bambi,” just smile and call him, “Litigation.” ;)

  22. Ali*

    35, currently in IT/academia, but the story I am going to tell is from a small for-profit corporation where there was a much higher ratio of women to men.

    I am a cake decorator/baker. That’s my hobby. It’s pretty much all I used to do outside of work. I’ve done several weddings and big events. At first, I kept this out of the office but a colleague and I became social and she spilled to our boss (female) that I was a baker. My boss asked if I would make a cake for our CEO’s (also female) wedding shower. I said I would. Everyone loved it, and my secret was out at the office.

    I started bringing in my test cakes – I’d experiment with new flavors and recipes and get feedback from my coworkers. I often (but not always) volunteered to bring a cake for office social events. When I didn’t volunteer, my boss asked if I would and I always ended up doing so anyway.

    Over the course of 3 years, I probably brought 30 cakes to the office. I was getting tired of it. It was expected that I would just always do it for every event. My own birthday celebration (we did a lot of these at this company) was distinctly lacking in a cake, but my boss did make some really good enchiladas for everyone (although, not for me because I can’t eat corn, which she knew). She said she was intimidated and couldn’t possibly make a cake for me.

    Right before I left the company (and the area), she asked me to do a cake for her son’s birthday. She wanted it delivered right before a big event we were planning (we were the marketing/events department, so I was very much involved in this event) and didn’t give me much notice. But I did it anyway because I felt pressured from my boss to do so, even though I was exhausted from how much work I’d been doing. She loved the cake, her son loved the cake. I thought all was good.

    Not two months after I left the company, I got an email from my colleague (the only other person my boss had supervised) telling me that our boss had volunteered to make a cake for an upcoming event and said in front of everyone, “now that Ali’s gone there’s no monopoly on cakes anymore.” to which my colleague replied, “but they were so good, I really miss them!”. Then boss said, “they weren’t that good. mine will be better.” This is the same woman who continually asked me to make cakes and told me how wonderful they were. I think she was just bitter I’d left the company. Even though I gave her 2 months notice and continued to contract for her after I left, she wasn’t able to find anyone with my skillset.

    Lessons learned: be careful how much/what you bring in or it will be expected and/or resented.

    1. Anonymouse*

      Bingo. I’m super-social and I used to do a lot of Happy Hours.

      When I left my last position, people asked “Will there be a Happy Hour?!” to which I replied “I hope so, but I’m not planning my own going away party!”

      There was, predictably, no Happy Hour.

  23. noah sturdevant*

    I’m trying to picture AAM as a hard-ass baker. “Eat this cupcake with pink frosting and sprinkles, or I’ll break both of your arms!”

  24. Mike D.*

    I think it’s part of who you are and companies hire a full person. It’s nice to show that you have interests and hobbies outside of the office. I don’t see much of a difference between that and someone coming in on Monday talking about what activities they did all weekend. I appreciate it when someone brings in food and it shows they were thinking of the rest of us. That goes for men and women.

    I’m 27, and if anyone works in an office that doesn’t want their food send it my way. I like gingersnaps.

  25. NDR*

    Female, 34 – also in the South, which may or may not have cultural significance

    Throughout my working life, I have and do often bring in baked goods – often homemade but occasionally purchased (I will pick up a dozen pastries or bagels for the office if I’m stopping for breakfast). I am in the events industry (and always have been in some capacity), so I think having food around and brought for the office is just part of everyday life (therefore no one thinks much about it). I am in a supervisory position, so I think that also helps mitigate any domestic/motherly vibe that it might give off.

    However, while working as the events manager for a non-profit, years ago, I got up extra early on a Monday morning and baked cinnamon rolls for the whole organization. I had just put the (warm and fragrant) pan down in the break room when I got called into the executive director’s office to learn that basically my whole department had been laid off. It was so awkward but also a little bit funny to have to stop back by the break room to pick up my still-full pan of goodies as I was being walked out of the building. So, while there was no causality between baking and job loss, there is definitely correlation in my mind.

  26. Beth*

    My baked goods started an avalanche that has quite a few men and women occasionally bringing their home baking into the office now :) Then again, I’m in Europe – long conversations on childrearing usually happen between the new dads here!

  27. Elizabeth*

    This comment thread is fascinating to me. I work in an elementary school, so a) it’s mostly women (though I wish this weren’t true, because kids need male role models too!) and b) being nurturing is more in line with what we do than being an assertive hard-ass (maybe there should be a little more assertion going around, actually). So people bringing in cookies, etc. is always welcomed, and no one would ever think that a baker was less professional than anyone else. But we’re not in the world of competing for the corner office…

    My former roommate, who’s a man, brings in baked goods for his office constantly. He loves to bake but doesn’t want to eat everything he makes. He is gay, though, so I’m not sure that data point contradicts the stereotypes all that hard…

    Incidentally, we teachers love it when parents leave goodies in the faculty room, too – so if you’re a fanatic baker but worried you’ll seem unprofessional if you bring cupcakes to work, you can always leave them at your kids’ school!

  28. Sally Go Lightly*

    Love this question! I’m 38, with an association and non-profit background. Where I am right now there are fifteen women and only two men in the office, and the Executive Director and most of senior staff are women. So I wouldn’t worry too much about anyone there being seen as a “mom” by bringing in baked goods. People tend to do this just to be nice, to say thanks, or to celebrate special occasions. No big deal. I do find a couple of women in the office to be overly “mothering,” but not because of baking. One is that way mostly because her job description calls for her to be that person that sends nagging emails to people to tell them to clean out the refrigerator or their offices, where to park, that they need to keep the kitchen cleaner, etc. The other is that way as a part of her personality—she’s the person that asks me to call her or text her if I drive across the state to “let her know that I got there ok,” which of course I refuse to do because that’s absolutely ridiculous and I already have a mother and a boyfriend if I wanted to check-in with people in that way. So, baked goods doesn’t equal mothering to me –treating adults like children does.

    Incidentally, I did actually ask a male employee to stop “serving” people at Board meetings once (privately of course.) That’s because I thought he was smart and great at his job, and wanted the Board to see him as a resource because of his skills. He was doing things like not sitting at the table with the Board at meetings and walking around refilling people’s coffee instead of taking part in the discussion.

  29. Bonnie*

    Well, I have never seen it as the only reason a person was turned into a caretaker but I think it was part of the package. The baker was in her 50s the majority of the recipients were in their 20s and the majority of those were men. Pretty soon she was the party planner, the dishwasher filler and emptier, the one who re-stocked the refrigerator with sodas, the coffee maker and all around company mom. Now she brought on a lot of this herself because she would clean up the mess rather than let it sit or re-stocked the sodas because nobody else did. She often expressed to me that this frustrated her but she kept doing it.
    Once at a company Christmas party she said to a group of men in their 20s sitting at her table, “and whose job is it to empty the company dishwasher?” They answered in unison with her name. She retired last summer and we are still having trouble getting everyone to put their own dishes in the dishwasher and restock the sodas in the fridge.
    Was baking for the office the reason she was treated this way? No, but it did reinforce the beliefs of those who treated her this way.

  30. Val*

    29, female, web developer in a big, spread-out group (maybe 65% male/35% female?). I’ve only been in this job for 4 months, and the only homemade goodies were coming in around the holidays (leftover cookies from parties, etc.), so it wasn’t always clear who brought in the goodies.

    At my previous job, though, my group of 30-35 people (web development/design/analytics/QA) was pretty close-knit and split fairly evenly down the middle as far as gender. We had a lot of random goodies showing up, from both men and women. The men were somewhat more likely to bring in something store-bought or made by their wives/girlfriends, but everyone was always happy to see treats on the communal table.

    In this office, we also had a “Bagel Friday” rotation – strictly volunteer. You signed up, and when it was your day, you brought in enough breakfast for everyone else on the list. It worked out so that each person only had to bring in breakfast 2-3 times a year. Usually it was bagels and/or donuts, with the occasional coffee cake if someone was ambitious, but there were two separate times involving electric griddles and pancakes (both managers – one male, one female).

    Yeah. We were all pretty food-motivated in that office. I think it distracted us from how underpaid we were. :)

  31. JoAnna*

    Age 31, private sector employee (editor). I bring in doughnuts from time to time (there’s a Dunkin Donuts right by my house, on my way to work) and I don’t think it causes anyone to view me in a negative light. My manager mentioned it in my most recent annual review, actually; he saw it as a plus for team-building.

    I don’t mind being seen as a “mother” as I am one (I have 4 kids, two of whom were born while I’ve been employed at my current company) but I don’t think anyone considers me a “mother” to my co-workers. I’m just a colleague who brings in yummy treats occasionally.

  32. Anonymous*

    Interesting post. I bring in food (candies, baked stuff occasionally, celebratory cakes) sometimes but so do others on my team. I think the throwback to Holly Homemaker is passe and wouldn’t occur to my team (we are all in our 30 – 40s).

    That being said, at our executive team meetings, there is one female senior leader who always makes the coffee. She is a silent volunteer and if she is not there, no one else makes the coffee. But she doesn’t NEED to make the coffee either. I’m sure she feels that she is being helpful and considerate, but I’m not sure it’s adding to her credibility to being known as the unofficial Coffee Lady.

    I feel as female leaders, we have to really step away from sometimes slipping into secretarial roles. We have enough challenges (sometimes) of slipping into admin tasks.

    1. Anonanon*

      “I feel as female leaders, we have to really step away from sometimes slipping into secretarial roles. We have enough challenges (sometimes) of slipping into admin tasks.”


  33. Hannah*

    I’m in my early 20’s. My observation has been that if a woman is already respected around the office, bringing in baked goods for no apparent reason is certainly not going to make her stock go down. However, if you’re working to be taken more seriously by your colleagues, offering them baked goods is *not* going to help. It’s a distraction, and it can make it look like you’re spending more time worried about getting your coworkers to like you, or be impressed with your cooking, than focusing on your work. It can even be perceived as a lame attempt at sucking up.

    I don’t think that anyone, male or female, needs to worry about baking for office parties and potluck events, because that’s a management endorsed distraction. It wouldn’t even occur to me that showing off your domestic skills when they’re actually being solicited would make you seem too “nurturing” and cause you to lose respect.

  34. fposte*

    Forties woman in academics, in an area where there’s a strong potluck/food generosity culture. I love baking and regret that I don’t have time to bake much any more; I buy storebought for my staff instead. In general baking in my workplace is more often done by support and junior staff than by senior players, and that’s a more notable difference than gender across the board. I would, as suggested upthread, be alert to how I did it if I started regularly baking and sharing again, especially as I’m a woman in the “softer” side of the subject area and I don’t want to encourage mommification. (It’s not an ongoing problem or anything, but I get paranoid about possible problems.)

    In short, there are factors beyond gender that play into the effects of this as a habit at my workplace, and I’d want to ensure that I had enough kickass profile to balance out food provision if I were to be the baker lady.

  35. Jamie*

    I bring in the occasional box of muffins/pastries for early am meetings, but only because I live near one of our areas best bakeries (seriously, people travel from all over to go there) and it’s on my way.

    I’ve never thought it made me particularly nurturing – although it probably wouldn’t hurt if it did.

    It’s weird, but as a woman in a male dominated profession (IT – dir. level) in a male dominated industry (manufacturing) I’ve given very little thought to my gender and what role, if any, that’s played in my career. It never seems to have mattered much – but lately I’m wondering if the little ways in which it has been an issue are actually more hindering than I chose to believe.

    Either way – I’m in my mid-forties and am definitely only a mom to the three kids who live in my house, borrow my money, and share my DNA. I assume my co-workers have their own parents and certainly don’t need me for that.

    And because in the interest of science I threw out my age (ish) I’ll say this…I’m definitely old enough to remember Van Halen the first time around and when I saw them Friday Eddie and Alex were as awesome as ever. Wolfgang on bass is an excellent replacement for Michael Anthony…he’s his father’s son. Oh yeah, and Dave was there too and remembered most of the lyrics to most of the songs. But it doesn’t matter…totally worth it.

    I’m sorry for the total hijack…but if I have to admit my age in public I wanted to throw out a plug for the others of my generation!

  36. Anonymous*

    I’m a 67-year-old woman who always brought in baked goods and other food for my staff. And when I retired, all the 20-somethings who worked for me (including guys) baked homemade goodies for me because I’d refused the company retirement party they wanted to have. It’s probably different when you do this baking stuff when you’re already a manager.

    1. K*

      That is really sweet of them. When the notorious baker in our office left (good “Joyce”) the team got her this really pretty cookbook and left personal notes on their favourite recipes about how much they would miss her.

  37. Lindsay H.*

    I feel this is an example of losing the forest for the trees. If you’re being routinely being passed over for promotions, pay increases, or not being taken seriously, you might need to take a closer look at your work performance rather than the consequences of bringing in baked goods.

    By the by, I’m a 30 year old female who enjoys brought in treats no matter the baker’s gender.

  38. Shackleford Hurtmore*

    Mid-thirties man in New Zealand at a 100-person company; sometimes if I’ve been baking too much, I take stuff into work to share, and colleagues do to… same if we have too much fruit on the trees, or too many vegetables coming through at once..

    Don’t think anyone assumes it means you are now the office gopher. CIO/CFO here are equally likely to load dishwasher as anyone else. Can imagine other places I’ve worked where people would have misunderstood and tried to take advantage though.

  39. Blue Dog*

    If anything is ever brought into our office, it never stays around long enough for people to know who brought it. There is a lot of sharing of goodies where I work, although I think that people who are more sensitive to being pigeon-holed tend to play it safe and bring in bagels or donuts. There also seems to be a lot less hand-wringing and labeling over bagels on a Friday or after a big win than there is over home-made brownies “just because.”

  40. 33 yr female*

    It depends on the office culture. We have a very casual office where people hang out and boundaries are already blurred, so there are baked goodies all the time, as well as other fun stuff.

    BUT if I were in my old conservative office, I think everyone would be weirded out by baked goods.

  41. Joy*

    I’m 25. Please bake. The only thing better than seeing cupcakes and a post-it in the breakroom saying “take one” is finding out you have the day off.

    Usually I find that supervisors, managers, or other senior employees were the ones bringing the goodies. :)

    1. Esra*

      I want your supervisors and senior employees! At my current workplace, the senior employees and managers never bring in baked goods or snacks for meetings or anything, it’s always the lower level staff. Kind of a drag!

  42. Anonymous*

    Mid – forties male manager, software industry. I bring cupcakes in occasionally for my team, usually to acknowledge a particularly hard stretch of work. I don’t bake them, though; I buy them at a local shop :-).

    1. Jessabeth*

      I was going to mention this exact post! I’m also an archivist, but work in the South, am 40 years younger than my male boss, the only other person in my department & building except when we have our student help.
      I had, and still have, nearly the exact same experience as the blogger. Everyone (including my boss) thinks I’m a personal assistant already rather than a professional, and bringing cookies or whatever seemed to make it even worse. I stopped bringing in cupcakes, and now I get “where are the treats?” with no mention of the actual work I manage to accomplish. Trying to be taken seriously as a young woman in the South is hard enough, and now I don’t bring anything in “just because”. I am not your admin, I am a professional.

  43. Andrea*

    1. Woman, 41.
    2. I think it is really ill-advised for women to bring in treats for their co-workers as it blurs the line about what the office is for. I am here as an equal partner to get things done. You are not my family and I am not your mother. I work in a gov’t agency where, at best, people look on themselves as a big (dysfunctional) family and put more effort into the Christmas potluck or decorating their cubes than they ever do working.
    3. Lest you think #2 is too strident, I periodically will bring some food item in for my team to recognize their hard work. I can’t give bonuses (see gov’t agency), but I can recognize their work in non-monetary terms. I specifically state that we should take a few minutes and enjoy something good for their work.
    4. I used to be the party planner at my previous job when people got married/had babies. I stopped when I recognized that this inevitably broke across gendered lines. No man ever planned anything. I am not the social secretary in my marriage and I will not be one at work (the book WifeWork is relevant, speaking about all the assumed jobs that women have typically gotten when they marry).

  44. Brightwanderer*

    I’m in the UK – this whole idea of bringing in baked goods (let alone “cupcakes”!) weirds me out, I have to say. I guess someone might bring in something on their birthday if they wanted to share? But if anyone was regularly bringing in their home baking I’d start to feel uncomfortable and like I ought to be reciprocating. I don’t know if this is a cultural difference between the UK and the States, or just between the kind of work environments I’ve been in and the ones a lot of your readers are from. I remember reading somewhere (Bill Bryson?) about a Brit moving into an American neighbourhood and being swamped with home-baked pies as a welcome – that would be a completely alien concept here. All the stuff about sweet dishes or snacks on the desk for people to share is odd as well. It’s just not something we really do, I think – I’m amazed by how many people in the comments are talking about baking and taking it into the office like it’s a common occurrence. (Which, obviously it is! But it would be bizarre in my world.)

    1. Anon*

      I am also in the UK and work in a firm of about 30 people, where it is common but not compulsory for people to bring in cake on their birthday, or for the partners to buy cake when all the trainees have passed their exams. I have never known anyone randomly bring in cake.

  45. Anonymous*

    As with most things in life, moderation is the key. If you were to bring in something twice a year, people would actually look forward to it. “Ooh, those cookies were really good.” Twice a year. Max.

    But, you will quickly be transformed from cook to kook if you demonstrate no appreciation for this and bring in orange and black Halloween cookies, turkey-shaped cookies at Thanksgiving, Christmas cookies, New Years’ cookies, heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cookies, Green Shamrock cookies for St. Paddy’s, etc.

    We all know people like this. Just don’t be that person and you will be fine.

  46. Lesley*

    Early 30s, communications.

    I love to bake. I actually blog about baking, cooking, and DIY-type projects, so I bring in a fair amount of food to share. When ever we have a party or team-building activity that might involve food, people ask what I’m going to make. I like that! (And I don’t want to eat it all myself).

    But I produce. I deliver well done work. I actually just sent my boss the link here, and she told me I’m fine, as long as I continue to produce good work (and keep the cakes coming).

  47. The Knitter*

    29–Two years ago we lost 1/3 of our front line staff in about three and a half weeks. It would’ve taken too much time off the front desk to interview, hire and train new hires before the semester ended. Instead we just weathered our the remaining six weeks with the remaining staff.

    At the end of the semester my co-supervisor had a great idea to treat the staff to a week long potluck. Everyone volunteered a day to bring in a goodie. This was a very specific “Thank You” to our current staff for the hard work they did while we were down one-third of our workforce.

    My supervisor decided to drop any department paid motivational treats because “You (the front-line supervisors) treat the staff at the end of the semester.” (Remember this was the first time we did this). I decided that this semester I’m stopping any “volunteer” treat bringing-in. Its an obligation now. Not a nice way to say “Thanks for your hard work.”

  48. Anon.*

    I bring in goodies to work all the time – 25 year old female with the quickest raise/promotion trajectory in the company’s last 20 years.

    The only time I have ever thought this might be changing people’s perception of me is when a coworker said aloud: “You don’t have a family at home, so you have to bring in these goodies to your work family.” And that wasn’t even a commentary on my baking, it was a “look at you, you’re single” sort of thing. Highly inappropriate, and also highly untrue as I would have brought that particular baked good of Chocolate chip cookies covered with a layer of Oreo covered with a layer of Brownie to work regardless of if I had a husband or children because no one should eat that alone. Ever.

    I guess it’s different since I work in an office where I am the youngest person by far. My boss and the director of the department both see me as a sort of daughter figure already, which I can’t get away from when I travel and they worry about how close I stay to a meeting venue, but for the most part I think it’s more of a compliment because they often say they wish their real daughters had the cojones I do sometimes.

    The fact that I make a mean cookie bar neither adds or detracts from my business competence and I know that, aside from my one coworker who makes snide comments to everyone, it’s seen as a treat and not a commentary on whether or not I can do my job or I should be staying home.

  49. Missy*

    I’m a 30-year-old, female software developer in the Seattle area.

    I’ve been making gluten-free goodies since I found I have a gluten-intolerance about four years ago. I love experimenting with different flavors, and so I’d bring leftover cupcakes into the office to share with my co-workers (and most importantly, get the goodies out of my house so I wouldn’t eat them all! :) ) I NEVER felt like I was just the “cupcake girl”, and many of my coworkers appreciated the goodies I’d bring in, and I’d share recipes if they wanted to make their own. I’ve also worked with men who’ve brought in cookies, cinnamon rolls, and other goodies made by their wives just for the office (and on occasion, I’ve made baked goods for my husband to take to his own work).

    Fortunately, I’ve never had the feeling of not being taken seriously because of occasionally bringing in treats. I tend to agree with other commenters that it might be different depending on your office culture/the work you do/geographical location.

  50. Jamie*

    “that particular baked good of Chocolate chip cookies covered with a layer of Oreo covered with a layer of Brownie”

    I have no idea what you typed after this…I stopped reading.

    Meritocracy be damned – if that thing is half as good as it sounds you should be promoted based on that alone.

    Seriously – link to recipe online?

        1. Anonymous*

          LOL – I never take baked goods , but I agree this heart attack in biscuit (Australian – we don’t call them cookies they are biscuits or Bikkies) needs to be shared

      1. Esra*

        Other awesome thing: In Martha Stewart’s cupcake cookbook there is a recipe for oreo cheesecake baked in muffin tins using individual oreos as a crust on the bottom. I baked them for my last birthday party. They were amazing.

        1. Jamie*

          I swear if I worked with you guys I would totally throw out my rule about never eating homemade co-worker food.

          That decadent piece of heaven I now know as the cookie turducken and Oreo cheesecakes?

          It’s a good thing you guys aren’t stocking my break room or I would be in serious trouble.

  51. HDL*

    I have a coworker who brings in awesome homemade treats for major holidays (think hand-dipped caramel apples all coated in M&Ms for Halloween). When she brought in a variety of cookies for Christmas, my boss commented to me that “Some people have too much time on their hands.” Really??? What is it to you if she enjoys baking in her spare time?? We don’t do any holiday (or otherwise) celebrations in my division, so it’s nice to see some festive treats! BTW, I’m 32 and I don’t usually bring treats to work because, with a 2-year old at home, I just don’t have time to make extra goodies.

  52. Anonymous*

    I am the only woman at our shop and I work with 14 men. I am mid 30’s, a manager (but they do not report to me). I love to bake and I make a mean cupcake. I think it helps break the ice because I think some of them just don’t know how to relate to me. However, occasionally one of them (usually when they are new) will say something about me cleaning the kitchen or making coffee. I think I make it clear that we all share those responsibilities. And I’ll actually avoid doing things that may be deemed as me doing the “female” duties. Some of them are old school and need a clear reminder that I am not a “secretary” and even if I were I wouldn’t be making coffee just because I was the secretary. However as I am one of the few people who drinks coffee, I do make it.

    I agree completely with AAM. …And, who doesn’t love baked goods? Let’s swap cupcake recipes!

  53. V*

    Female, early 30s, lawyer, big-ish firm, northeast. Only the secretaries (all of whom are female) bring in home-baked goods. Some of male partners bring in pre-packaged food, bagels or bakery items, but never anything home-baked. I sense that many partners in my firm have the attitude that associates (men and women) should spend their waking time billing, not baking (or engaging in any other leisure activity), so it’s best not to highlight your leisure activities at the office. I also buy the logic of NGDGTCO that a woman needs to be aware of how she is perceived (and I think the concept really applies to everyone, not just women). Given all of this, if I bake, I send the leftovers to my husband’s office.

  54. Michelle*

    I’m 30ish, female and an engineer. To be honest, I’ve never really thought of it. I only bring in treats when I have too many left over from the holidays, parties or whatever (usually chocolates, actually). I have never brought in baked goods.

    After reading the comments, I started to think about the women at my office who have a candy dish on their desks, who bring in baked goods, etc. I perceive them as nurturing people, but they have also held the same jobs for last 10-15 years. They’re in positions with few opportunities for growth. They’re the same folks who complain when somebody doesn’t refill the kettle or when somebody leaves dishes in the sink.

    Just an interesting analysis of behaviours and perceptions, I guess. I have a hard enough time being taken seriously at my job as it is, and I don’t want to be perceived as the office mother years down the road, but at the same time bringing in cupcakes every now and then shouldn’t matter (maybe it does matter….but it really *shouldn’t*)

  55. Yup*

    Female, mid-thirties, US non-profit.

    Food seems pretty neutral in my current office. Men and women both bring things in regularly. There is a skew towards homemade-by-females and storebought-by-males, but it seems well received by all. So I’m not very attuned to the ‘bringing in baked goods’ thing.

    I am, however, *very* circumspect about my office equipment trouble-shooting and desktop software skills. This is definitely a gender roles issue at my job. Susan in Accounting and Mike in Fundraising might have the exact same PowerPoint or unjam-the-copier skills (and the same pleasant demeanor), but Susan will get asked for help every. single. time. Weird that it’s work-related (not food-related) things that trigger this.

    1. Students*

      This is specifically a threat dynamic thing. It’s not just something you see in an office- it’s everywhere. When a person (male or female) needs to ask for help with something, they default to the least-threatening person they can ask. Since Susan is a woman and Mike is a man, Susan is inherently less threatening to everyone, so all else being equal she’ll get asked for assistance more often with PowerPoint.

      I happen to be a very short woman, so I end up getting asked for odd things all the time, in and out of work. If someone is driving around lost, they’ll go out of their way to ask me for directions, because I am so very non-threatening as a complete stranger. If someone is looking for a seat in a crowded auditorium or subway, they’ll sit next to me rather than some guy every time. Watch the seats fill up on a subway some time – it’s a fascinating study in power dynamics and threat perception.

      Note that this isn’t an absolute law – perceptions of competence can overcome the least-threatening tendency. If people thought Susan was bad at PowerPoint, they’d go ask Mike instead. There’s also a racial bent to this – if Susan was black, people would probably default to asking Mike for help. It makes me sad to say that, but it’s still very common.

      1. Jamie*

        That is fascinating. I’ve suspected that it wasn’t a conscious sexism i.e. Susan is a woman and therefore subservient to ask her to help…but perhaps people do tend to find women more approachable than men. So it’s still rooted in bias, but less conscious.

  56. Fifi*

    I’d say the onus not to misconstrue baked goods or any such social niceties at work lies on the receiver, not the giver.

  57. Court*

    I’m thirty, a woman, and I love to bake. I bring in food to our Hill office quite a lot and like to bake for office birthday celebrations. The guys in our office cook and bake, too – for my birthday several people, 2 men and 2 women, made different sweet treats for me as a surprise. We also do potlucks where everyone brings in food, mostly homemade, and at that last one our staff assistant (a man, early 20s) brought in a pie and whipped cream he whipped himself with a FORK. We’re equal opportunity, I guess.

  58. Anonymous*

    Late 20’s, I bring baked treats in for the same reason sometimes: baked too many, need to get them out of the house. I’ve only received appreciation for them! However, I find it frustrating when people complain about people bringing in sugary treats as somehow being out to get them and ruin their diet. Have some self-control.

  59. Curious*

    I read that same No baking and no candies rule in the work of Dr Lois Frankel.
    34, female. I only baked on my birthday when it was expected that the one celebrating would bring in cake for colleagues. Both men and women brought in cake when celebrating. Rather than store bought for men as a previous poster noted, it was home baked by the regular employees, like me, store bought for those higher up the food chain.
    (pun intended)

  60. Aaron*

    27, male, worked in consulting (currently in law school). I have brought pies and banana bread in to past workplaces–because I was living alone, like to bake, and didn’t want to eat an entire pie. Obviously, since this goes against the stereotypical scenario, I didn’t have much to worry about, but my female co-workers did this too without ill effect. I think it got people a lot of credit with senior-level folks as an easy way to demonstrate they were team players and cared about the office culture.

    This was an office where people of all levels brought things in, though, and those who didn’t bake would often bring leftover BBQ, homegrown herbs, etc. If only assistants bring in food, or something like that, it may not be particularly healthy.

  61. L*

    I’m a 25 year old woman working in an administrative office of a university. I bring in baked goods with some frequency. I supervise a number of student workers, and I bake birthday cakes for each of them. It makes them feel appreciated, which is good because my office can’t afford to pay them very much! Supervisors of student workers really need to be nurturing in order to help these students turn into fantastic employees when they get their first “real” job, so I don’t worry about perception there at all. I also bake cakes for coworkers birthdays quite frequently. If anything, this has gotten me positive attention from the higher ups. Everyone likes cake and I’m a really good baker!

    I get the sense that this may be a regional thing but is also an industry thing. It sounds like most of my peers in academia can also bring in homemade goodies without fear of being looked down on.

  62. Suz*

    Mid-40s female.
    It’s mostly women in my current office. Lot’s of people bring baked goods in so I don’t think anyone gets the cupcake lady label. The bigger problem is that there are treats several days a week. No wonder I’ve gained weight since I’ve been here.

    At my previous job, it was mostly men. We very rarely had treats and when we did, the only people ever bring them were the guys in sales.

    This post reminded me of a former coworker. I was visiting one of our production facilities. “Mary” was the only woman who worked at that site and she was definitely the office mom. Not only did she bring in baked goods but she would cook lunch for the crew every day.

  63. Lana*

    I’m a baker- I do it to relieve stress and express myself- much the way others would do yoga or paint. Actually, it might be my field (Pediatric Early Intervention) but it’s often something that’s been asked of me in interviews: “How do you cope with stress?” “I bake.” Since, much like others, I have way more stress than is calorically manageable- I usually bring my goodies into the office to share.

    Something I’ve noticed: it’s not about who brings in the goodies, but how they distribute them. If I bring in 24 cupcakes and stick them on the counter in the kitchen with a little sign that says the kind of cupcakes, any allergy awareness (ie: CONTAINS NUTS! or DAIRY FREE!), and a note such as “Hope these brighten your day! -Lana” I’m basically offering them to anyone who wants one, and yet I’m not “feeding people.” This is generally what I do, and it’s never been taken as a caretaker move- it’s seen as a nice thing to do. However I’ve noticed others bring in goodies and personally distribute them- which seems to cause problems. It appears to communicate favouritism of certain individuals over others based on who was offered a goodie first, and it REALLY signals preferential treatment if an un-solicited treat is left for someone who isn’t present. Since I work in a women-dominated field (where I’ll admit, caretaking is a prerequisite for the job) it’s never caused a huge fuss- but I have heard the occasional “Why didn’t she offer me one?” from somebody who wasn’t left a nibble. This seems to be amplified in settings where there’s a higher concentration of men too.

    So I don’t think it’s necessarily about blurring domestic skills with professional ones- more about the personal offering of food being a traditional way of signaling intimacy with someone (this is why we invite people over for dinner, right?) And the previous writer took it one step further and called her co-worker to alert him to the fact that she’d left him food.

    So I’m personally going to stick with the “Here’s the goods, take em or leave em” approach to bringing goodies into work. That way it’s first come first serve, and if there’s someone you really want to have one you can pop by their office and say “Hey- there’s cupcakes in the kitchen if you’re interested!”

    Oh, and I’m in my early 20s.

  64. Marie*

    I’m just under 30. I’ve never had the feeling that bringing in baked goods would undermine my or a coworker’s professional credibility. BUT I have seen that the people who bring in baked goods frequently are the ones who are asked first to volunteer for the caretaker-y work in the office (i.e. if there is a birthday committee, or decorating committee).

    Most of the people who frequently bring in baked goods seem to really like that sort of stuff, so I guess it all shakes out for them. I have avoided bringing in baked goods because I don’t really want to be asked to do some of that other work (not a fan of birthday committees or frequent potlucks or any of that stuff). It would be voluntary, and I would be allowed to say no, but it’s just not a conversation I want to have. If the office culture is that birthday and holiday celebrations are enjoyed and expected, I don’t want to reveal that I’m not really on board, so I just try to steer clear of it.

    I also avoid baked goods because whenever they’re brought to the office, it triggers a day-long whipping session for the resident dieters. Wherever the brownie tray is, that’s where you’ll find a huge group of people discussing obesity epidemics, new diet fads, what part of their body they hate the most, etc. In my current office, due to the way things are set up, these conversations are always happening right near my desk, and it is absolutely maddening and incredibly distracting. I hate hearing that stuff SO MUCH, it is like nails on a chalkboard to me, and I hate the social pressure to join in with it. The last time we had baked goods in the office, I waited until the area was clear to try to sneak in and grab something, and ran into a coworker who said, “Oh, I was going to be bad and get a muffin! Are you going to be bad with me?” and I sort of snapped back, “I don’t think food has an inherent moral value assigned to it, so no, I am not being bad, but yes, I am having a muffin.” I know how incredibly socially awkward I make everything when I say something like that, so I just try to avoid the baked goods entirely now, and put in headphones when I see somebody coming in with a pie.

    1. KellyK*

      Wow, yeah, I hear you about the diet talk. That irritates me too. I like your “food doesn’t have any inherent moral value” comment, and I don’t think you’re making things socially awkward–I think the person who started the “Be bad with me” line of conversation is the source of the awkwardness.

      1. Marie*

        Well, that’s what I think, too, but I know I’m swimming upstream against the tides of what’s considered socially normal, whether or not I think it *should* be normal.

  65. TheAssistant*

    I’m 23, and happily employed at my first job. I also LOVE to bake and have no significant other/family/large friend group in my city. Ergo, I chose to bake for my coworkers (not often, but every few months) to…
    1.) Get to know people outside my department, especially ones I require “favors” from (like a 1,000 piece mailing – hello, cookies for the mail room!)
    2.) Practice my baking
    3.) Get myself, and my other coworkers, through day-long meetings

    I’ve noticed another early-20s assistant in our department does the same, and food in our office (especially our department, for whatever reason) is prevalent.

  66. Karen K*

    Great conversation. I like to bake too, and bring them in. I also bake artisan bread and sometimes bring that in as well. I’m kind of a hard ass myself so it seems to work for me. Plus, I like to make gourmet-y type desserts, which seem a little less wifey.

    However, I run like hell from party planning and office decorating committees.

  67. Anonymous*

    Female, 29, HR at a public school board where out of 90 employees in the department, only a handful are males.

    I find this whole topic so fascinating! I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts so far.

    I think for me, it depends on the office culture. I’ve taken homemade goodies to many of my past jobs and I’ve been fortunate to work at places that do not view female bakers as mothering or nurturing types. Rather, people always got super excited about homemade goods (or any kind of free food for that matter) and I’ve received a lot of compliments on my baking. And to be honest, I’ve worked hard the last few years to get over the things that have been holding me back from progressing – namely, I’m an introvert who needs to learn how to be more assertive, project confidence, and build strong working relationships with my coworkers. I honestly never factored in “taking baked goods to work” into the equation of “things that are not helping me to move forward”.

    Where I am now, there are ALWAYS goodies hanging around the office, whether it’s from someone’s mother-in-law, Principals and schools sending us food (OMG copious amounts of chocolates), or someone picking up a box of doughnuts on the way to work. The sharing of food/goodies is definitely part of the culture here and I quite enjoy it… although I have to exercise extreme self-control on a daily basis.

  68. Laura L*

    Great conversation!

    My knee-jerk reaction was that no, women, should try to avoid bringing in baked goods. After reading all the comments, though, I’ve changed my mind to “it depends.”

    My first “real” job out of college was at a non-profit with about 50 or o employees. It was mostly women, but most of the department managers were men and the executive director was a man. He was also sexist (and racist and homophobic, but I digress). I picked up from him a lot of negative vibes towards women who act to “motherly” or whatever at the office and it’s colored my thinking ever since.

    However, at my current job, people bring in stuff all the time. Some people do it on purpose, but mostly it’s things people have leftovers of or were given and don’t want to eat. And much of it is left out anonymously (I’ve gotten free clementines this way!)

    So, I’d say as long as it’s acceptable in your office’s/department’s culture, your boss doesn’t mind, and it’s framed as an “I have leftovers” thing or you just leave it out for people, I’d say it’s fine.

    Oh, I’m late-20s. I was 23 in the job with the sexist boss. The boss was around 60. Also, that job was in a major metro area in the north. I don’t know to what extent that matters, but clearly some people still have sexist ideas about women who bring treats to the office.

  69. love baking*

    The comments are very facinating.

    My take, I bake cookies because I feel like it. I bring them to work and people eat them.

    Never ever ever thought about it as anything more than….. I bake cookies and bring them to work.

    I don’t care why someones brings them. I have never looked at it as blurring any line between anything. I see nothing more than cookies, donuts etc and a nice employee.

    1. love baking*

      And yes it does depend on the office as does everything that happens in a company. Some do birthday celebrations some don’t. Some frown upon bringing stuff in, some like potlucks.

      And you will always have the people that want to ” mother” people, control the pot lucks, be a party pooper, the dieters and so on. That is just office life.

      There is no way there is going to be a consensus on anything like above.
      I say BAKE if you want and stop worrying about it. Got to be bigger fish to fry ! : )

  70. Baby Boomer*

    I am 56 years old. In a job I had in the mid-70’s I had to put up with a salesman who used to pinch my bottom while the other men laughed. There was no recourse at the time – I would have been laughed out of a court room. In my next job (late 70’s) I worked for a company where I was the only woman working in the office. It was assumed I would pick up where my predecessor left off by making coffee, cleaning the office and tending the flower garden in front of the building. I informed them that I didn’t drink coffee and would not be making it, nor would I be doing any gardening. Fortunately my skills were good enough that they kept me on and made their own coffee and hired someone to do the cleaning and gardening. Now I work for a non-profit that is two-thirds women. Because of my history I still don’t bake for work. I fear that it will make me look motherly or weak. When we have potlucks I pick up something from a deli.

    I think asking posters to include their age is a good idea because I think most people my age and above would have a very different outlook on this subject that someone in their 20’s.

  71. Mario*

    I am a 36 year old male and I LOVE to bake. I think I am pretty good at it. In fact I like cooking in general. At home I am the one that cooks. My wife fixes the doors when they make squeaking noises :-)

    Anyways, I always bring baked good to work, without any problem. I don’t think anyone would see it as a problem because I am male. But I don’t think I would care too much either….

    1. love baking*

      So cool to hear that !! My hubby helps me bake cookies.. tastes the chocolate chips to make sure they are OK for consumption… licks the bowl to help in clean up.. LOL ( kidding of course )

      Bake on !!

  72. Amber*

    I’m 30, and work for a company that does internet advertising. I’m the “candy girl,” and at this point, and it’s definitely expected of me at this point that the bowl will be full (of chocolate!) at all times.

    Whether or not being the candy girl has impacted my being taken seriously- in all honesty, at this particular job, it’s kind of a moot point. I do excellent work, something that has been recognized by senior management. However, senior management undervalues my department overall, in comparison to other departments, because my department doesn’t make money for the company the way the sales department and other groups do. We’re already the red-headed stepchild department, so if bringing candy and doing other things improves our personality-standing with the rest of the office, then that’s all for the better.

    We do have one woman who is kind of the “mom” of the office, but that’s not because she occasionally brings in home-made enchiladas and chile verde. It’s because she’s an older woman who gets up everyone’s business and acts like a nagging, overbearing relative in how she treats people!


    age: 39
    work with mostly women
    most of the time there are none of my treats left especially no-bake cookies
    I definitely found this feed very interesting as I am a baker, a mom…but not my co-workers’ mom. I honestly never have thought of my baking as being a negative thing other than for my hips. Makes me a bit irritated to think that I might have to worry about how someone would take my passion for baking as kissing up, etc. Baking relieves stress for me, I take pride in my creations and I won’t stop baking buuuut…to whom should I give my treats? Fire station?
    In my new position as I’ve evolved in to a much more confident, not so quiet, and more assertive person, I continue to bake for myself but am more apt to draw the line at what “domestic” tasks I take on.

  74. littlemoose*

    I’m in my late 20s, female, and a lawyer working for the government. Mine is definitely a foodie office, and there are often treats in our communal breakroom, usually of the leftover variety. My office also does a monthly birthday celebration, and we all take turns bringing food for everyone to share. This food is usually homemade and yummy. We have had people – often supervisors – bring in bagels, doughnuts, etc. occasionally, particularly when it’s a stressful work situation like overtime. If it matters, the majority of supervisors in my office are women.

    I think the key here, as others have pointed out, is the power dynamic at play. If you’re young and trying to be taken seriously, maybe bringing baked goods isn’t helping your case. If you’re established, in management, etc., then it’s less of a concern. Bottom line is, assess your office and its dynamics, and proceed accordingly, knowing that the vast majority of coworkers will gladly accept free food!

  75. Jaime*

    34, female, single … customer service industry.

    I bake and bring things in occasionally and in no way feel that people take me less seriously. I clean up after myself, I don’t clean up after others. No one asks me to help party plan or expects me to bake all the time. My office is definitely food friendly (too often sometimes), but no one thinks less of any woman doing the cooking/baking. My workplace is predominately female, including most of the managers and directors.

    Based on baked goods alone, I would never think someone was mothering their coworkers.

  76. Xay*

    Early 30s, government/government contracting.

    I’m not really a baker, so I don’t bring in food very often. If I do bake, I usually bring in the leftovers to work and send an email that there is food available. Men and women of various ranks bring in food, although there is one woman (high ranking) who is a excellent baker that provides her latest experiments and trials for monthly status update meetings.

    This conversation has been interesting to me because in my previous job, the office hardass was also the office baker. And her baked goods were divine.

  77. Diane*

    This is a thing? I did not know women bringing baked goods to work signalled something weird. I’m 42, female, and share my baking experiments occasionally, mostly so I won’t hog all the calories. Though I much prefer when people bring extra veggies they grow.

  78. IT girl*

    I’m 34, female, at a small not-for-profit. The bulk of our staff are women in their 20’s and 30’s, and they bring in baked goods at the drop of a hat. We are all expected (I use the word loosely) to provide treats on our birthdays, when we return from holiday, etc. A lot of the women bring things in because they “happened to be baking the night before”.

    I really don’t like this at all as I don’t want to eat refined sugars all day, and it annoys me that I “have” to bring in food I can’t/won’t eat for everyone else on *my* birthday! I seen as the food pariah in the office as I always decline the offerings… I’ve had people standing at my desk saying “I’m not leaving until you take an ice lolly” – !

    The men do bring things in, but it’s always stuff they have bought. Occasionally they will bring in brownies their (female) partners have made, but it’s not often.

  79. Anonymous*

    I’m 30, single and in India :)
    yesss…lots of stereotyping and worried questions about why i’m not married yet. In India, in most companies, the work place environment is more like a ‘family’. and anyway, women are expected to cook, so no1 would even blink an eye of you brought in cookies or cupcakes.
    They’d just hog it all up. Thats about it :D

  80. Sandrine*

    I will be 29 in July.

    In my team, most women are from cultures where the woman is traditionally in the kitchen. Come to think of it, it’s the same for my culture of origin but I’m too stubborn to conform to things like that :P . The fun thing is that, while some of those women admit freely that they do, in fact, do most of the cooking and things like that, and while one of them used to “baby” us at lunch by sharing fruit and nice things… I just can’t think of those women as anything other than darn good professionals.

    Our job may not be the most complicated ever, but I do admire those women a lot (I do cook, but I’m so far from even looking like a housewife it’s not even funny – I am very, VERY bad with “chores”) . So sometimes, when I buy treats for myself (when we have long hours without a lunch break) I just share. One day I even baked a cake for lunch time and everyone loved it.

    And guess what, it changes nothing to the professional relationship :P . We get treats, good, we don’t, good, all is well :) .

    (I do have to thank the babying coworker for one thing though: thanks to her I discovered some kinds of fruit I didn’t know and it turns out I just LOVE them!)

  81. Kelly O*

    Wow, I didn’t realize I was opening up such an interesting discussion.

    Just to add, for the record, I’m 34 and female, and someone mentioned Lois Frankel and I remembered that’s where I read it. A manager of mine gave me a copy of “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” because I was having a problem some time ago with a client in our center not taking me seriously.

    I love to bake and cook. At the time I was having a pretty good time playing around with cupcakes, cookies, muffins, you name it. Since I didn’t have mouths to feed at home, I brought my things to work and put them in the break area (in an executive suite environment, but we had a separate break area that was not visible to visitors.)

    And then we had this client who seemed to refuse to take me seriously. I read this book and we talked about it – the perception was that because part of my job was keeping things clean and tidy, and because I brought in things once every couple of weeks (although without fanfare and obviously not hand-delivered) there was a perception that I was “just” the secretarial person. So my input on the project itself wasn’t valued as highly. The client was a very old-school man who tended to be dismissive of all but the most assertive women.

    Granted, it’s taken me some time to find the happy medium, but part of how I do that is curbing my “to-work” baking, even when its leftovers from something else. A lot of it depends on the office environment – right now I don’t do it because every woman in our office is a “girl” and I don’t want to do things that would add to that perception.

    That’s why, in this environment, I keep a couple of pictures of my family out, I have a pencil cup I particularly like, and a professional certificate looking thing with some values listed on it that I personally espouse. Again, all dependent on the circumstances, but it’s where I am now. No candy dish out (even though I keep a stash in my desk drawer.) That may change at the next job, but I won’t know until I get there and find out what the existing dynamic is.

    I kind of wish sometimes it was different, but I don’t feel like I’m being any less myself, or in any way not being authentic to the person I am. I just try to compartmentalize a little more.

  82. Anonymous*

    I think it also depends on how it’s done. One of our female workers likes to bring cakes in – we have an area that we put such treats and it reflects on the fact she likes to bake. Maybe she’ll make a general announcement to us in the area.

    Another one, brings cakes every so often but then goes around serving people, as if we were in her living room, wants us to come to the place where the cake is. That feels totally diminishing professionally (It always makes me cringe). The 2 women are about the same age, and both have clerical duties. It comes out totally different.

  83. Anonymous*

    There was a great male correlary to this on “How I Met Your Mother” where Barney was trying to help Marshall create his office persona–he ended up being “Sports Guy” because he started a fantasy sports league. Luckily “Creepy Backrub Guy” had already been taken, lol!

    As a 41 year old woman who’s mostly worked in predominantly male environments, I can appreciate the advice from a wider viewpoint than whether you are bringing in cupcakes or not. The issue is really one of perception and authority. Much like people who scream and yell to try and get people to follow them, if you constantly feel the need to give treats to your coworkers, you start to signal to others that the treat is the primary compelling factor, not the strength of your ideas or work ethic. We all tend to want to follow leaders who lead with unequivocal assuredness. They don’t need to cajole or bully us because they know their path is correct. An occasional treat is not going to damage anyone’s reputation, unless you work in an ultra-competitive environment, but when you start getting known as the person who always has baked goods, candy, or in the case of HIMYM, creepy backrubs, the message you are sending out is that your value has less to do with your work, and more to do with “treats”.

    I used to get highly involved in planning parties at work, but eventually I realized that I was not being perceived as “the kick ass employee who not only can do her work awesomely but also makes sure we all have fun!”. Instead I was coming across as “The person who tends to get caught up in unrelated frippery”. Now I participate, so that I’m still a “fun” part of the team, but I’m careful to limit my involvement so that it’s clear that my primary focus is always work.

  84. Anonymous*

    26, female, working in southern Europe where stereotypes about gender roles abound. I have made a few holiday baked goods and brought them to the office, but very sparingly. (Side note: I use them as an excuse to drop by former places of work, say happy holidays and give them some goodies, just to keep in touch. Since I no longer work there, I figure the exchange is friendly and casual anyway and it doesn’t hurt to look thoughtful and at least have some guise for visiting other than please be my reference/use your network to help me/give me a job.) I also think it depends on office culture. People we work with bring things by the office all the time, and there’s usually some kind of communal candy/snack out for everyone. Maybe I would think twice if I was the only one who ever did it.

    Also since when did any of those supposedly “masculine” traits become masculine? I fully acknowledge that gender stereotypes exist in the workplace, but bluntness/assertiveness was never really what I thought of- gossipy, hormonal, and backstabbing sure, but blunt? I don’t think that has been applicable in most of my work places. In fact, most of the women have been fairly outspoken. My sector is has a 50/50 ratio men-women and I have easily been afraid of more women at work (a la AAM and her poisonous cupcakes) than men. And as far as overcoming stereotypes, I have a harder time convincing people I know what I’m doing because of my age than my gender.

    1. Jamie*

      “Also since when did any of those supposedly “masculine” traits become masculine? I fully acknowledge that gender stereotypes exist in the workplace, but bluntness/assertiveness was never really what I thought of- gossipy, hormonal, and backstabbing sure, but blunt?”

      This is the one area in which I’ve felt my gender mattered at work. I go out of my way to be less blunt and more diplomatic than any of the men at my level – because being direct doesn’t work for me the way it works for them. No one thinks anything of it when they do it, but I can see it makes me less approachable and yeah…bitchy…to others.

      The same goes for aggravation, annoyance, frustration, etc. I try to bottle that up and filter it through very stoic and precise phrasing far more than the men do – because it’s received differently.

      It sucks and it’s wrong, but I have to do what I have to do in order to be effective at work. It’s the difference between a male manager being annoyed (but professional) and people asking “what happened?”…and me being annoyed (but professional) and people asking “what’s wrong with her?”

      I hate that.

      1. Kelly O*

        I can totally relate. It’s a longer thing to get into, but I have a similar problem where I am now.

        I was actually told “you don’t act like women are supposed to act” – and I laughed. Out loud. Turns out he was serious.

  85. Riki*

    34, female, single and in a creative/media-related industry.

    I don’t bake and neither do my coworkers where I currently work. I have worked in places where people liked to bring in treats for no reason (homemade or store bought) , but I’ve never associated that with them being “motherly” or anything. The reaction is more like “Treats? YEEEES!”

    The only problems I can see happening with this is 1 – becoming the go-to person for all office snacks, like what “R” wrote about above or 2 – if you’re a terrible baker or have terrible taste but insist on bringing in things no one wants to eat, but will feel obligated to. I’ve also known people who are weird about eating coworkers’ homemade goods because they don’t like to eat things made by people they don’t know well.

    Obviously, it depends on where you work and how you present your offering, but I think bringing in cupcakes or donuts is usually looked on as a nice gesture and nothing more. Just make sure what you bring in is edible!

  86. KellyK*

    30, female, tech writer at a defense contracting company.

    My office culture is really big on food. One of the high-level managers is also very big on holidays, so she does the pink cookies on Valentine’s Day and that sort of thing. It doesn’t seem like it’s hurt her career any.

    I’m in a fairly atypical environment because everybody in the chain of command I report to, all the way up to the Owner, is a woman. My female boss reports to a female regional VP who reports to the female owner.

    I also think the “mom” role has very different dynamics when you’re a manager than when you’re not.

    I think that it’s a good thing to be aware of, but I think a hard, fast “don’t bake for coworkers” rule is silly. There are definitely sexist environments where it will contribute to overall problems with being taken seriously as a woman. There are also plenty of environments where people will think only “Ooh, cupcakes!”

  87. Amina*

    I’ve never done anything like this. However, lately as I get into baking to avoid food allergies and eat Primally (it’s a dream), and as I really hope to have another job sometime in the next month or so, I’m thinking as a once in a blue moon thing, such in my first couple of weeks on the job, and then 6 months later, I’ll bake for my office. Just so that they see me as human.

  88. Amina*

    P.S. I also think a very occasional feminine touch like this can only help. Just don’t make it a regular habit, or text people re their share, because as adults, they can find it and get it!

  89. Students*

    I work with a lot of international people, and there’s important cultural considerations to keep in mind if you work with lots of foreign folks. I work with lots of Germans, and they have all had a tradition of bringing in a baked good on their own birthday to share with colleagues. In that case, bringing in brownies on your birthday makes you fit in with the cultural expectations. On the other side of the coin, Germans on average are much more regressive towards woman’s rights than Americans – there is a strong expectation in Germany that a woman will stay home after she has children. So, bringing in baked good on any day other than your birthday as a woman is a bad idea that will probably lead to you not being taken very seriously. Also, tangentially related, cornbread freaks them out.

    The Japanese have a similar thing going – it’s traditional to bring in small edible local treats when you return from trip, but there’s a strong cultural expectation that women stay home and raise children. It means you need to be very conscious that you don’t overdo it on bringing food in, but still observe the expected protocols.

      1. Students*

        One of the Germans explained to me (a Midwesterner, raised on corn) that corn products are not supposed to be sweet. I don’t know what he was expecting when I brought corn muffins in as my birthday treat, but he was not expecting it to taste good. He was extremely surprised that corn could be put in a “dessert” but he seemed to think it tasted good – he ate a couple of corn muffins. He kept mentioning how weird it was that Americans put corn in “everything” though, and he thought the texture of cornbread was weird. I got the strong impression that they don’t eat much corn in Germany at all.

        1. Laura L*

          Ah, thanks. I am also a Midwesterner (although not currently living there).

          I guess corn is one of the few things that wasn’t really imported to Europe after 1492?

          Cornbread is great, though, and I’m glad he liked it!

        2. Editor*

          During a river cruise that went through Germany, we had a day trip with a guide doing commentary on the bus. She was saying that in Germany people don’t eat corn and it is only considered fit for animals. She was saying this as the bus full of Americans was driving down roads flanked by cornfields.

          My late husband and I looked out the windows and saw fields and fields of … field corn, which doesn’t look like sweet corn and sure doesn’t taste like it. The Germans don’t grow sweet corn and they don’t know there are two major forms of corn, so their puzzlement is logical.

          As far as the main topic goes, I’m 60 and don’t bring baked goods to work as often as I used to. I did at one time make amazing collections of Christmas cookies. I have simplified Christmas a lot.

          I buy bagels now if I feel the office needs food, because I decided doughnuts were way too sugary for me, and if I bring them I eat too many. If the staff has done a lot and needs a break, sometimes I’ll order pizza, but my particular office has a small staff.

          1. Trish*

            I just wanted to note that the tradition in Japan of bringing in souvenir food treats after a trip is usually done after using time off to take a trip. It is a thank you to the co-workers who covered for you while you take time off. It’s also a really smart way to drive local tourism, in my opinion. But it definitely is not something that is tied to gender over there.

  90. Anonymous*

    52 year old academic here, have worked in two mid-sized Southern cities. Both men and women bring stuff, and it doesn’t seem to affect how they are treated. However, there can be problems with parties. Some, but not all, of the guys, bring something like soft drinks or paper goods, or bring nothing, don’t contribute cash, but eat a ton, and don’t help set up or clean up. People do some mild complaining. I think if the women did that, there would be social repurcussions.

  91. Jessabeth*

    The problem I have is not so much being seen as “motherly” but as “not a professional,” and when I brought treats I feel like it made it even worse, and that was the sort of thing that was now expected of me. I’m 28, have a professional degree and corresponding position & assigned duties, & work in the South. I run into “I would like to speak with a man,” “can you type this email for me?” “go run and make this photocopy” all the time, even from colleagues. I stopped bringing any baked goods for anyone other than the office Xmas party to help bring up my “I am a professional” status. I also stopped being so sunshiney-happy-nice all the time to be taken more seriously, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of problems.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      People tell you they want to talk to a man? Wow. What do you say when that happens? I would innocently ask “why?” and then wait to see how they handle that.

      1. Jamie*

        I am absolutely floored when I hear this happens, even though I’ve seen it and experienced it myself in the past.

        In one case I was having issues with a vendor and the regional manager called me cupcake and asked to “speak to one of the big boys…someone who has the authority to make a decision.”

        Apparently he didn’t like my use of my authority when I decided not to continue to pay his company since they continued to suck.

        I canceled his contract with us and sent a strongly worded letter to his corporate headquarters. He then called my office to speak to the bitch who got him fired. And that is how a woman goes from Cupcake to Bitch in 0-60.

        I’ve also seen a vendor ask to speak to a man because they wanted to speak to somebody in charge. Unfortunately for him he said this to a woman who happens to be the owner of the company as well as the CEO. Just because she happened to have been standing at the copier at the time he made some very bad assumptions.

        She set him straight with a beautifully cutting and professional speech that made her my hero.

  92. Anonymous*

    West coast, 53 female, and I brought cupcakes today. Nearly everyone here brings something, sometime. The ones who don’t are looked down on, a bit. I think this has more to do with the type of workplace. My old job was at a Engineering consultant and no one brought anything. Now I work in Education and boy oh boy do we eat well.

  93. Anonymous*

    Female, 25— I love when people bring in baked goods. Where I work, women and men often do it. I never have thought anything of it except, “Wow, that is nice of them!” I think it makes everyones day when they see a stack of cookies by the water cooler. I don’t really see being perceived as domestic as being a bad attribute at all though.

  94. Dianna*

    Bringing in treats is a fun and easy peer-to-peer act of recognition or encouragement. My coworkers prefer sausage biscuits to cupcakes though! I did get creeped out once when a manager from another office sent me one of those cookie “bouquets” for assisting them on a project – not sure why, but I found it off-putting to get that for something that took long hours over many weeks. So, I think treats/sweets are definitely something for which you must consider the context. BTW, I’m 44.

  95. Anonanon*

    I’m 40+, married, no kids. And not a baker, although I’m not a big fan of cookies either.
    In my previous job in Retail/Fashion industry, almost all the men (gay guys mostly) and women loved to bake, and it’s a very common to get an email announcing that someone brought some home-baked brownies, cookies, etc. Note that lots of these folks are directors and above.
    In my current job in hi-tech, I recently heard someone was chastised for bringing home-baked goodies. And unfortunately that was done behind her back, so no way for her to defend herself. And more unfortunately her supervisor who was there when this issue was raised, didn’t defend her at all. Worse, she (the supervisor) had a ‘talk’ with the ‘baker’ later on and advised her to stop doing it.

      1. Anonanon*

        Oh you wouldn’t believe this (and neither did I), but the ‘issue’ came up when they were having discussion about her promotion! The decision-making-executive said something along the line of she’s too domestic. And the executive happens to be a woman/wife/mother.

        1. 37-year old female CPA*

          THIS is why I’m in the “Don’t bake for coworkers” camp.

          It’s unfortunate that a female exec punished her for being “too domestic”, but it’s not as surprising as it should be.

          [Re-reading this thread, I think I have an inkling into America’s obesity epidemic.]

  96. A*

    Male, 39, 14 years with energy corporation in Oklahoma.

    There are a group of people (all women) who bring food to our office all the time. However, I have never seen any supervisor/manager/person in a position of authority (male or female) bring any food to work. Ever. I’ve never really thought about it, and I’m not sure why it’s like that.

    I suspect there is a subconscious understanding that “subordinates handle the food”.

    Don’t get me wrong – everyone likes a good homemade brownie. We don’t have vegans in Oklahoma, but I suspect they like brownies too (that was a joke).

    Should women (or men) bring food to work? Probably not. The reality is that it will most likely reinforce feminine stereotypes. And the hardasses will not-so-secretly wonder why you spent that extra effort on food preparation instead of adding value to the company (no, you can’t do both).

    It sucks, but there are cliques at work just like everywhere else. Do you want to be part of the food clique, or the bad-ass employee clique? I say give yourself every possible advantage. When you’re the boss, bring all the brownies you want!

  97. Lils*

    Great post…I’m mid-30’s, academia, and I believe that baking does not taint your image as a professional. There are many behaviors that will undermine a woman’s reputation in the office, fairly or unfairly. Talking too much about your medical problems is one of the more rampant ones at my workplace, as is dressing as if you’re going to the gym. Baking, to me, screams “competence!” Talking incessantly about your IBS while wearing a tracksuit? Not so much.

  98. Suzanne*

    I bring goodies to work all the time. It never once occured to me that this would give people the wrong impression of me. I simply love to bake and share what I bake. This post has made me say “Huh”. You can’t be nice at work?

  99. Tela*

    In general NO. I just finished a work project where the PM totally tried to play Mom by coming around to our cubes with “I have pizza!” or celebrating a milestone by bringing in treats. Personally, the treat bringing compounded my impression of her as being out of her depth. Also, personally I’d rather get rewarded with extra money or time off, now a grocery store donut.

    My gender/age probably isn’t relevant for my answer. I’ve baked twice for work related Christmas events and the response was so underwhelming, never again will I bother with making something for colleagues. In one situation, I got the impression people thought I was being weird or cheap because I made something instead of buying it from the store. Craftiness is wasted on those people!

    I do bake and share with people. I used to bake a lot for my dad and now that he’s deceased, I usually share things with my friends when they have parties or get togethers. My friends (and still living relatives) are far more enthusiastic and appreciative about anything I’ve made than my colleagues.

  100. Another Anon*

    57, female, in IT. I’m not sure you can say that when a woman brings in baked goods it is or isn’t okay career-wise. It depends on the office. In my last office people understood that I was a good technical professional who happened to be a good baker too. In my current one I struggle not to be written off as a “gal” with all the stereotypical baggage and busy work that go with it. While I do bring goodies – everyone does, and folks do appreciate it – I do it like the guys do: storebought packaged.

  101. First Job*

    Early twenties in publishing. I regularly bring some baked goodie once every two weeks. I started it as a way to try to meet my coworkers, as well as to hopefully try to make up for being in the first!job!learning!phase. (Clearly, if I woo the departments with treats, they’ll be less likely to hold mistakes or questions against me.)

    Of course, now I am all sorts of traumatized that I have “RUINED EVERYTHING FOREVER” due to not knowing how evidently, there are big issues about bringing sweets into work. Erk. I was just having fun trying to cook new things. No one else in my family has a sweet tooth, so experimenting and feeding my colleagues seemed like a good idea. I’ve been doing everything from caramel apples to cookies. Maybe…I’ll just…gradually stop bringing things in so frequently. Only a few people have really noticed that I know of, and they’ve all been friendly and very complimentary. But maybe they’re secretly thinking judgmental thoughts.

    1. Diane*

      Do other people bring in treats, or just you? It’s all about the norms where you work. You could be starting a new delicious trend.

      1. First Job*

        One person brought in leftover cookies she had baked around Christmas. Once in a while, someone will bring in excess pre-made treats (normally things they can’t eat themselves). There are two other departments that bring in baked goods much more often though. (Often enough that people from around the floor will make it a point to swing by their areas just in case.) So, um, I’m the only person in our actual department who brings in homemade goods on a regular basis.

        I’m really concerned about the business of how one shouldn’t personally hand out the treats. Our department is one of the few that lacks any place we all go… We’re sort of spread out at an odd angle, so there’s no place that everyone passes by regularly, which means there is no obvious spot for me to set the goods out.

  102. Some Guy*

    Male, 43, manager of 16 people 40/60 female to male.

    Both the men and women in my department bring in snacks to share all the time. On occasion they organize pot luck dinners since we work swing shift and all dislike the employee dining room. I participate in the pot luck dinners and invite my bosses to come down for some food which they often accept. I find it to be great for team building.

    Beyond not having to eat in the employee dining room, I hope it shows the crew that both me and my bosses are accessible.

    Since there is not one person bringing in all the food I don’t think it’s expected or that they are “mothering”.

  103. Diane*

    I’d sooner ban workplace hugs and creepy backrubs while I enjoyed the vegan brownies. How do y’all feel about hugs?

    I’m not a huggy person. I don’t mind if a non-creepy person I know well hugs me, but not random co-workers. I have a dear friend who hugs almost everyone. She’s warm and bubbly, competent and loyal. She used to work with me and unfortunately was perceived as the “just” a support person. She also received a LOT of unwelcome advances and attention. My advice was to stop hugging people at work, period. Mind you, this was in a workplace that perceived itself as family. I found it unprofessional and petty.

    1. IT girl*

      Ever worked with French people? Nothing so offputting as having to kiss all your colleagues every time you enter or leave the office!

      1. Diane*

        I’ve worked with Bolivian people, and I honestly didn’t mind the kissing. I wasn’t creepy at all.

  104. JessB*

    How completely fascinating! I have just worked for 3 weeks as a temp at an office where everyone was so lovely, I wanted to do something for them, so I baked cookies and brought them in. It wasn’t a big deal, and I offered them round to people, and then left them in the tea room. But everyone liked them, and I liked that they liked them.

    Like Alison, I love to bake, but as I live alone, I have to resist the temptation to eat it all myself. So I take it into work. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion, I just like to bake.

    By the way, I’m 29.

  105. Amanda*

    Late 20’s, biotech, San Francisco… I bring in treats when the mood strikes me, normally around some holidays, and I highly doubt anyone sees it as a motherly gesture. Others (including some men) do the same, plus I’m one of the main people coordinating the after-work brewery visits. I think it’s more of a desire to bring some fun to the office. Everyone seems to enjoy the treat while still seeing me as a professional.

  106. Catherine*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I just have to chime in here.
    I am 54 years old. My husband and I own a small documentation company; we’ve been in business for about 15 years. For the last four years, my main contract has been as a technical writer for a telecommunications firm. So far, so good.
    1. This job is my first “office job”. Yes, okay, this is what happens when you marry at 18 and have your first at 20.
    2. The last tech writer was a complete idiot (I inherited a suite of documentation that crashed on publication to pdf.) It was an extremely hostile environment, no-one wanted me “wasting their time.”
    3. My husband is the other tech writer for this department, so initially there was a good possibility that I’d be seen as the wifey-tag-along. We kept our relationship not exactly secret but not advertised for the first year or so. When people started to notice the same last name I just said, “Well, he’s not my brother.”
    4. We have six (now grown and moved out) children; I spent 25 years doing the Mom thing and enjoy cooking and baking. I kept that hush hush for a while too.

    I put a lot of thought and work into presenting a serious and professional image to the guys (it’s about 95% male engineers), and developing a strong working relationship with them. I very carefully didn’t do anything that might lead to me being seen as the office Mom. Despite my office-inexperience, I could see that I didn’t want to go there.

    In the last year or so, I’ve relaxed a little. I’ll allow brief family calls to my work number, I’ll mention that I had all the kids home for Christmas and the house was full, I’ll joke/commiserate with a young dad about toddlers and their (not) sleeping habits.

    But I have never taken baked goods to work (even though I’ve been tempted). What I have done, and I’m hesitating about it, is made an afghan for my next-cubicle neighbor expecting his first. Not sure how to actually give it to him.

    1. HannahS*

      This is such an interesting story! Given what you were up against, I’m really impressed with how deliberate and thoughtful you were in creating your professional self. Also, I made an afghan once and it took two and a half YEARS to finish…so I’m really impressed that you make them for other people!

  107. Trish*

    29,f,single, work in IT department for a gov’t office in New England

    I like being feminine! I also like being hard working and good at my job, and know that I am valued by my boss. I don’t see those as two things at odds with one another, and from observing my workplace, in my untrained eye I have not seen it be detrimental to the careers of women who are perceived as feminine or motherly.

    I think bringing in food to an office is definitely detrimental if you feel obligated to do it, but I think its nice when people try to foster office camaraderie in their own way.

    As one of the (apparently hated, from reading this thread) dieters, I actually get uncomfortable when people try to encourage me to partake, because I don’t want to be impolite. While I appreciate the thought behind the giver, seeing “goodies” out for everyone all the time would be a huge stressor for me. If my office became a culture where that was an everyday norm, for my own health and sanity, I think I would probably begin looking elsewhere for employment.

  108. Anonymous*

    I myself don’t see anything wrong with bringing ‘treats’ to work for the complete group. I have in the past bring a coffee cake to work for a person’s birthday. But, I would make it a point to be sure and make another one for the complete office or department to ‘share’. That way it doesn’t cause ill feelings for anyone in the group.
    If you just bring one person the ‘treat’ and nothing for anyone else, that could cause some hurt feelings.

  109. RK*

    Twenty years ago, when I started teaching (both HR and Management), I suggested to the students that, especially when starting out, the women not acknowledge that they could make drinkable coffee or take legible notes.

    More recently the manager of a 300-employee business unit at which I worked as HR Manager, planned a holiday potluck with those from some departments (mostly male) to bring sodas, chips or pies, and the remainder (mostly female) were to bring main dishes.

    That said, I like to bring treats and I enjoy it when others do as well, but it is like all relationships, if it seems too one-sided, somebody needs to address the inequities.

  110. Miss L*

    I don’t bring in treats because I don’t know how to bake. I could ruin coffee – instant coffee, even. And have.

    But if I did know how to bake, I doubt I would. I work in a male-dominated field, and I have to be careful to come across as “one of the guys” – friendly but firm, funny, able to take a joke, whatever the opposite of a “delicate flower” is. Each office I’ve worked in, with the exception of the non-profit with the female CEO, has had a distinctively locker-room-type atmosphere. And even when I’ve tried to blend in, I’ve caught extra flack for being one of few, or even the lone woman in the room.

    From my very first professional job, where my boss told me he was tired of his wife, hinted that I’d make “an excellent trophy wife,” and told me I should seriously consider switching fields to work in the sex trade – to my most recent position, where I made 30% below market rate while working more hours than the men – I’ve navigated some minefields. Fighting to prove you belong in a profession is tiring. I wish more people would take the work environment into consideration when they ask why women don’t “want to” work in “pale male” fields like computer software, engineering, IT, etc.

    Sometimes, the sense of pride in a job well done and the thrill of learning new code hacks or design tricks made it worthwhile. But there have been an equal number of days where I’ve yearned to “opt out” of a career altogether.

    My husband and I live in the Midwest, in a burned-out manufacturing town, for what it’s worth. He used to work in the trades, and reports that the atmosphere there was even closer to Animal House.

    Oh well.

  111. Miss L*

    Wanted to add: Being that I work in a male-dominated field, most of the people who bake for their colleagues – and most of the people who leave early to pick up the kids – are men. I’m closer to the stereotype of the “company man” than they are at this point.

    Hey, it’s 2012 – we live in some wild times, and rigid gender roles are (finally!) beginning to break down. It’s not a bad thing.

  112. mel*

    I know this is an older posting, but… if baking things is such a “mom” thing to do, why are there so many male professional bakers?

  113. Anonymouse*

    I know this topic is months old and maybe no one will see this comment, but I felt like adding to it because the subject has come up in my thoughts very recently concerning my own workplace and a pattern I’ve noticed. (Also, someone further up may have already said what I’m about to say but I haven’t read through all the comments yet so I don’t know.) Anyway, here’s what I perceive to be the pattern and thus the bigger danger, even, than looking “too domestic”, “too nurturing” or like a “pushover”: it can kinda come off like you don’t think you have much else to offer the workplace or social sphere (and in many cases, these two overlap) and that you assume the only way to get “noticed” or “appreciated” is to bombard your cohorts with delicious goodies. (I think gender is actually irrelevant here, btw.) Now, mind you— bringing in food is a WONDERFUL thing to do, and in my mind is always greatly appreciated.

    But I will say the pattern I’ve observed is that (and I’m really, REALLY not saying this in any mean-spirited way) it’s often the people who have the more obvious social difficulties who bring in the most food. And by “social difficulties”, I’m not intending any insult— we all have social difficulties, could just be simple shyness or introversion. But my point is that it’s often all-too-clearly inferred that cooking is this particular person’s main way of connecting with people, or at least their most *comfortable* way of doing so. And even though it’s generally sweet and well-intended, I think if it’s done *too much and too often*, there’s a risk that it looks a little too compensatory. And perhaps raises questions, in the back of other minds, such as: “Is this person insecure in their work, or in their other interpersonal abilities? Is all this food-bringing a supplicating maneuver to deflect notice from those insecurities?” Again, these sorts of questions would only come up if it’s just TOO MUCH— in which case I would suggest that the over-bringer make a point of practicing additional modes of connecting with people at work to add to their personal toolkit and to avoid having their job abilities questioned despite having (probably) the best of intentions.

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