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The Problem with Boobs

Vivia Chen

May 29, 2013

“As soon as that baby’s lips touched that girl’s bosom, forget it.”


Baby feeding by oksun70_FotoliaIn case you missed it, hedge funder Paul Tudor Jones (below) uttered that remark last month at the University of Virginia during a symposium featuring big Wall Street investors. He was responding to a question about the absence of women on the panel. According to what he's seen, Jones says, women lose their focus in demanding fields such as global macro trading once they have babies.

And he didn't stop there. According to The Washington Post (which reported on it recently, after obtaining  a video of the panel through a Freedom of Information Act request), Jones went on to say:

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. . . And I’ve just seen it happen over and over.

I don't know exactly what "global macro" traders do. I can only assume that it must be one of the most critical, difficult, and testosterone-demanding jobs in the universe—up there with combating chaos and saving the free world. So important that it couldn't possibly be entrusted to some distracted "girl" with a baby hanging onto her breast.

Paul_Tudor_Jones,_Tudor_InvestmentsTo be fair, Jones didn't say that women lacked the smarts to do macro trading. He simply said that once a woman has a baby, she's done, because her priorities have changed.

Needless to say, there's been shock and outrage over Jones's comments. Women in particular are condemning Jones for suggesting that motherhood and demanding jobs are incompatible. And though he tried to calm the waters, Jones didn't help himself much when he told the Post that they were merely "off-the-cuff remarks" made "with regard to global macro traders."

We've all had a little laugh at Jones's ineptitude, but let's be honest: Some of you probably believe in the fundamentals of what he says. Though most of you are too smart to articulate it in quite the same way, I suspect a lot of you secretly agree with Jones.

I sense that because I hear all the time—from men and women—about how being a mother (not a parent, mind you!) is different and special. I hear that's why women need to be on an alternative track, a slower track, or might want/need to drop out of the workforce entirely. When push comes to shove, the presumption is that women will chose motherhood over careers. Hence, the lack of women in the equity partner ranks in a profession like law.

Indeed, the Madonna myth looms large—and no one wants to give it up.

So was Jones perpetuating an unfair stereotype, or was he just giving voice to what many people believe? I'm afraid it's a bit of both.

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In part at least, I understand the opposing positions. On one hand, female lawyers' opportunities should not be hindered based on perceived choices of females generally. On the other hand, Paul Tudor Jones is saying what he has seen. I have similar experiences as a partner at my firm, having trained a number of excellent female lawyers, most of whom left the firm for family reasons that male lawyers would not have. Because I think taking care of others, particularly family, is usually a higher calling, I do not question the individual decisions of female lawyers who left for family reasons. Life is not about work.

@Paula A &, suchende, In your never ending quest to be insulted by what a man says.You show your ignorance in comprehending his full statement.And Ms. suchende, am I missing something in your last part, that you would prefer your daughter to be a better business person, than a parent? Talk about mislaid priority's.
ronique breaux jordan, If you don't have equity at home. You need a new partner. And men of a certain age stepping down can't help you there.
Hey Alex, men can't bear a child nor breast feed it.
Hey wtbg, You rock!
BTW. Why don't you research what being a global macro trader has to do. in fact that goes for anyone working internationally. Face it, in some fields you have to choose between your career & parenthood. Personally myself, I worked for less money until my kids were into there teens, so I could be home as much as possible. When the time was right I went to do what I planned to do from the start. I tripled my income, but had to give up on seeing my children & husband every day.

Vivia, what about the many qualified women who DON'T HAVE CHILDREN? Where are they?

Tudor's view is no excuse. It's chauvinistic prevailing attitudes that are blocking women, not children.

wtbg, that is exactly the message I would NEVER want my child to get from me. I want her to achieve, aspire and work hard at her JOB, not at parenthood.

Tudor's comments are damning on working women because he actually believes what he said. I don't by the off-the-cuff but rather it's from the gut.

If our bosses think babies are the ultimate distraction then should I waste years trying to prove him wrong or get out while I'm ahead? This is the problem and perhaps a reason for such high attrition rates in the legal profession.

It's heartwarming to see the discussion shifting from women having to sideline themselves because they want children and a productive work life to women&men having more open discussions about family life, work life ad how to balance the two. It's time for men of a certain age to begin to step aside and let the next generation work out what women have been going to college for to begin with,...equity in the workplace and equity at home......

The problem is not that women are "distracted" by child bearing and rearing. The problem is that men are not, and are not expected to be. If men were expected to devote themselves to their family in the manner that a woman does, there'd be no standard that women would be considered incapable of meeting.

It is hard to care about shallow insignificant materialistic nonsense when you have experienced the creation of life and the importance of your input in your child's life. I am hoping that as my daughter grows and becomes more responsible for her future, my mind will be freed to go back to things that can't possibly compete with my interest in my child.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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