Paul Tudor Jones’ Comment: Moms Don’t Have the Focus for Macro Trading Career

Posted on May 24, 2013

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Outrageous!  But Is He Right?

Here we go again.  At a symposium on large-scale trading and investment  at the University of Virginia last month,  the question came:  why was the panel composed solely of rich, white, middle-aged men?  Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones answered that in his experience, emotional distractions – such as divorce – would automatically subtract “10 to 20% from any manager.”  He went on to say that women were fully capable, but once they had children they faced years of such distractions.  “I’ve just seen it happen over and over,” he said, citing specific examples from his early career (full video here).

Oh, the outrage!  Oh, the misogyny!  But wait.  Jones was not making some sweeping, prejudiced statement; he was speaking of his own experience.  He only told the truth about what he had personally seen.   I have seen it, too, in a military context.

Jones did not say that women were less capable than men.  What he said was that for women, having a child is a game-changer.  Forced to devote more attention to either a demanding career or a demanding newborn, Mom will generally focus on the newborn more than the career.   Oh, the misogyny!  How patronizing!

But wait, think about it.  As I have written previously, there are only 24 hours in a day and Mom is only one person.  Every minute she spends at work, or paying attention to work, is time not spent nurturing her child.  The script we are supposed to recite in such cases is some variation of, “It’s not the quantity; I spend quality time with my kids!”  And we convince ourselves that we can… nay, should be entitled to… rise to the highest corporate levels while dandling our babies on our knees, shaking our client’s hand with our right while wiping up spit-up with our left.

Then reality hits like a ton of bricks.  No, you can’t tote your nursing baby to class, or the board room.  No, you can’t just take off from crucial client meetings to pick up a feverish child from school.  Your career will suffer.  And now you face a choice:  ratchet back on the career, or figure out some kind of child-care option that does not require your presence.

So what does society think of Moms who delegate their child-rearing duties to others in order to focus on their careers (or for any reason)?  Is it really socially acceptable?  No, it is not.  Rahna Reiko Rizzuto wrote about the hostility she faced for leaving her children in the custody of her husband as her marriage dissolved.  She lived on the same street and remained actively involved with them, but:

 For this decision, I have been threatened with death and sexual violence by strangers. I have been called human “garbage” and “worse than Hitler.” … The hostility and abuse that is directed at the “mother who leaves” clearly does not depend on her actual leaving. We want our mothers to be long-suffering, to put their children’s needs first and their own well-being last if there is time left….  I realize that our family is not abhorrent or unnatural. It looks very much like many other families that have been through divorce, except Mom is the one who lives down the street.  Even so, once my book was published, I wrote about the backlash: the neighbors who crossed the street to avoid me, the friends who could not forgive me, the outbursts from strangers who asked, “How could you leave your children?” a most nonsensical question in my mind, since I was standing right there.

This is how society still sees mothers: the parent who is there for the children.  For all the progress we have made on sharing parenting responsibilities, fathers still don’t bear much stigma for being the “breadwinner” and leaving the bulk of the childcare to Mom.  Fathers don’t bear much stigma for being a noncustodial parent.   But as Ms. Rizzuto discovered, the reverse is a minefield of condemnation.  Once women have children, they can’t step back the same way a father can; it’s not enough to simply provide, a mother is expected to be there.  Even if they secretly prefer their demanding career to their demanding children, social pressure to choose the children is intense, and that is a problem when it comes to gender equality.

We talk about the need for better childcare, for flexible work hours, for more maternity leave, and those are all helpful … for average mothers in average jobs who are playing the balancing game between family and job requirements.  Those things help mothers shoulder the burdens society expects them to shoulder.  They will not help women break glass ceilings and achieve the highest corporate levels, which are exponentially more time-intensive and attention-intensive than the run-of-the-mill job.

So long as we don’t respect a career woman who leaves the childrearing to nannies or her spouse, so long as we don’t respect a woman who chooses to be a noncustodial parent – so long as we expect, demand, and shame women into assuming the bulk of the childrearing duties – women will always be faced with choosing between remaining childless, and the impossible “balancing” act which really means neglecting both her career and her children to some extent… and keeps her well below the glass ceiling.

Related articles:

Drew Barrymore:  Putting Parenthood First

Why Allowing Women In Combat Won’t Make Much Difference in The Number of Female Generals

I Never Wanted to Be a Mommy

Breastfeeding and Babies Do Not Belong in the Classroom

On Single Parenthood

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