Billionaire Investor Blames Boobs, Babies for Lack of Female Traders

Paul Tudor Jones is 58 years old. He is a hedge funder. He is one of the richest men in America. He is probably a Republican. He predicted the 1987 market crash (see below). On Wednesday, we also learned that he holds some sexist beliefs about women because of most of the characteristics just listed.

The Washington Post recently obtained a video of Jones speaking on a panel at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce in April, in a conversation that was intended to be off the record. He and his fellow panelists were asked to "reflect on the nature of the panel; rich, white, middle-aged men" and remark upon what would have to change "take for someone different to have a seat at the table and finally share their voices from a powerful place."

"I've got some thoughts on that," said Jones, before stating declaratively that "You will never see as many great women investors or traders as men – period, end of story. The reason why is not because they're not capable," but because of their emotions.

Jones doesn't like emotions because trading doesn't like emotions. He explained that when someone on his team is going through a divorce (even a man), that's problem enough, because it takes away their "emotional bandwidth" and they can't focus on the job. Jones has a high emotional bandwidth. And as a child, he really liked games:

"When you think about 'Why am I here today?', I'm here today because as a child I played every game in the whole world. I played poker, backgammon, bridge, monopoly, parcheesi. I played chinese checkers, solitaire...and that's all I did as a child. By the time I was 21 I had a Ph.D in Probabilistic Theory because I love games, it's what I do."

The takeaway here seems to be that he was raised by his mother to have a healthy competitive energy, with some implication that most women are not. Anyway, back to the issue at hand. Here are the comments from Jones that have been found to be the most inflammatory:

"Take a girl that was my age at that point in time. Particularly back in the '70s. I can think of two that actually started at [brokerage firm] E.F. Hutton with me. Within four years, in 1980, right when I was beginning to launch my company, they both got married. And then they both had – which in my mind is as big as a killer as divorce is – they both had children. And as soon as that baby's lips touched that girls bosom, forget it, [audience laughter] every single investment idea, every desire to understand, every desire to understand what's going to go up, what's going to go down, is going to be overwhelmed by the most beautiful experience which a man will never understand but the emotion between that mother and that baby. And I've just seen it happen over and over again."

Jones knew he was saying something controversial (he was later supported by dean of the school Carl P. Zeithaml, who said Jones was "misinterpreted"). But he wasn't. He was very clear. He even clarified after his first, most inflammatory statements that these are his beliefs about female traders. "I'm talking about a very specific skill set required," he said:

"If you told me that this woman was not going to have a baby, certainly can get married but is not going to have a baby, then I think it would be a completely different panel 20 years from now, assuming that she's not going to have a baby."

You may notice some silence on behalf from the several other men on the panel with him. Only one commented on Jones' opinions; John Griffin of hedge fund Blue Ridge Capital Management said he agreed:

"Why are there few women traders? There always have been; there likely always be...It's a very specific element...he's not making any broad [statements]."

In a statement to the Post, Jones didn't stray far from his original comments, though he did make it clear that he's told all three of his daughters that they should go into trading, and that "any man or woman can do anything to which they set their heart and mind."

But he also said:

"My off the cuff remarks at the University of Virginia were with regard to global macro traders, who are on-call 24/7 and of whom there are likely only a few thousand successful practitioners in the world today. Macro trading requires a high degree of skill, focus and repetition. Life events, such as birth, divorce, death of a loved one and other emotional highs and lows are obstacles to success in this specific field of finance."

The problem with Jones' comments isn't that they're wrong. Trading is an insane field where you make a very high paycheck but your life looks very different from a "normal" life. Jones' comments, however, are based off of his early experiences as a trader – he even says so. His first example dates from the 1970s. It's his early experiences that have shaped and changed him, and that's the problem. He isn't able to envision women deciding they want to be a trader and give up "that mother child connection." He doesn't understand that there are women now (and were women then) who want different things and that the women who want to be traders might not want to have kids, or have kids in their 20s. He thinks things are never going to change. Ever.

What will it take for change to happen? Does his generation of leaders have to die to get rid of this type of gendered thinking? Do they have to retire before passing their beliefs on to a new generation of white men who will become old white men and believe the same thing?

At the end of what basically amounts of Jones orating for roughly six minutes, the moderator of the panel, Jeff Walker, who is chairman of the University of Virginia Council of Foundations, commented that when he was at J.P. Morgan, he found that it was women who were the best at leading because they had a "less transactional" way of looking at things.

"If women ran the world there'd be no wars. I believe that 100 percent," responded Jones declaratively, with a tone implying that he was giving the biggest compliment one could give.

If women ran the world. According to Jones, that will never happen. And it's because people like him believe it that that's so.