Billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones didn’t intend for his comments to leave the room, but leave they have, creating a maelstrom. As indelicate as he may have been, I say we forgive his old school vernacular and look at the bigger picture. In answer to a written question — labeled by its author as “the elephant in the room” — about how to get more diversity in the world of trading, the Washington Post reports:
[Jones said] that it is difficult for mothers to be successful traders because connecting with a child is a focus “killer.” As long as women continue having children, he said, the industry is likely to be dominated by men.
“As soon as that baby’s lips touched that girl’s bosom, forget it,” Jones said, motioning to his chest during an April symposium. He was talking about two women who worked with him at a stock brokerage in the late 1970s – two women who married, had children and, according to his account, no longer had the laser focus needed for the intense world of macro trading.
Yeah, Jones could have worded that much, much better. But he also said that it was about focus, not about gender. He said any personal obstacle could cause a trader to lose his or her edge. He gave the example of a male trader who was going through a divorce who could not perform his job very well because of the distraction. He never said women couldn’t ever do the job, just that women who were focused on motherhood would find it too difficult. He did say that “the reason why is not because they are not capable. They are very capable.”
Some feminists (no surprise) have responded like Lost’s John Locke with a “don’t tell me what I can’t do.” WaPo reports that the University of Virginia, which sponsored the symposium, had to send out a lengthy explanation which included this quote from an e-mail it had received from an alumna.
“There are many people who agree with the alumnus’s comments,” the graduate wrote. “When you come across those people, go the other way. Life is hard enough. You don’t need negative perspectives or people who tell you what is not possible in your life. Go around them and then prove them wrong. Do well, and come back to tell the next generation of women what is possible.”
At least she was more civil than many of the hundreds of comments that popped up within an hour of the story being released online. And I’m not saying she’s completely wrong. But why are Jones’s comments immediately labeled as negative? Did she not hear how he encouraged his daughters to follow their hearts’ desires — that they could be successful in any field, including macro trading? Did she not understand that Jones was basically saying that predicting stock variations is mundane compared to caring for your own child?
“Every single investment idea . . . every desire to understand what is going to make this go up or go down is going to be overwhelmed by the most beautiful experience . . . which a man will never share, about a mode of connection between that mother and that baby,” Jones said.
Yes, he said that perfectly. The most beautiful experience. Why won’t we just own that? There is nothing wrong with saying that nothing compares to motherhood, and if it makes it too difficult to focus on something as ephemeral as success at a desk job — who cares? Only mothers can know motherhood, that priceless vocation. I’ll take it.