Her column looks at the problems that arise when women are encouraged to leave family formation until their 30s:
Many [professional women] thought they could put off marriage and families until their 30s, having devoted their 20s to education, establishing careers and playing the field. But was their decade of dating a strategic mistake?
Jamie, a 30-year-old Sydney barrister, thinks so: "Women labour under the impression they can have it all. They can have the career, this carefree lifestyle and then, at the snap of their fingers, because they are so fabulous, find a man. But if they wait until their 30s they're competing with women who are much younger and in various ways more attractive."
What's particularly interesting is that Bettina Arndt backs this up with some demographic information.
- one in three Australian women aged 30-34 don't have partners; even by the late 30s the figure is still very high at 25%.
- in 2006 there were only 68,000 unattached graduate men in their 30s for 88,000 single graduate women in the same age group.
Although there are similar numbers of single men and women in their 30s overall - about 370,000 of each across Australia - half these available men had only high school education, 57 per cent earned $42,000 or less and 95,000 of them were unemployed.
There are similar numbers of single men and women in their 30s but 57% of men are on a low income of $42,000 (US$43,600) or less. To put this another way, there are 370,000 single ladies and 160,000 men earning more than $42,000.
There are two points to make here:
i) It's possible that part of the explanation for the statistics is that a large percentage of men on a high income are already married in their 20s.
ii) One consequence of preferences given to women in education and employment is that many women will not be able to find a husband on a high income.
Feminists don't mind so much about the second issue. They think it's a good thing as they hope it will force a change in relationship patterns so that the woman will go out to work whilst the husband stays home. But that won't be for everyone - note that 25% of women are still single in their late 30s.
And that's not just because of male preferences. Some of those 30-something professional women are determined to partner with professional men. The owner of one dating organisation,
finds many of his female members are determined to meet only men who are tall, attractive, wealthy and well educated. They want the alpha males. ''Most of the professional women rarely give out 'yes' votes to men who aren't similarly successful,'' reports Parfitt, who struggles to attract enough of these successful men to his speed-dating events. Sixty per cent of his members are female. Most are over 30.
The dating imbalance leads to complaints like this one from a 30-something lawyer:
She is stunned by how hard it is to meet suitable men willing to commit. ''I'm horrified by the number of gorgeous, independent and successful women my age who can't meet a decent man.''
Penny acknowledges part of the problem is her own expectations - that her generation of women was brought up wanting too much. ''We were told we were special, we could do anything and the world was our oyster.'' And having spent her 20s dating alpha males, she expected them to be still around when she finally decided to get serious.
But these men go fast, many fishing outside their pond. The most attractive, successful men can take their pick from women their own age or from the Naomis, the younger women who are happy to settle early. Almost one in three degree-educated 35-year-old men marries or lives with women aged 30 or under.
I don't write this in order to demoralise those women in their 30s looking for a husband, nor to suggest that every such woman is single in her 30s by choice.
The point is that it's not wise for women to play the waiting game - to see your 20s as a waiting room where you run down time until you finally spring into action in your 30s ready to find a husband.
Look at the numbers. For a lot of women that plan is not going to work out too well. It's better for women to take things seriously in their 20s.