Billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones certainly knows how to get a conversation going. During a question and answer session at symposium at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce in late April, Tudor Jones asserted that once women become mothers, their capacity to be excellent traders is rendered useless. “We will never see as many great women investors or traders as men,” Tudor Jones announced, “because as soon as that baby’s lips touched that girl’s bosom, forget it.”

Response to Tudor Jones’ comments was swift and furious. Women in many sectors of business responded with outrage, and justifiably so; Tudor Jones’ observations seemed more appropriate to a conference room on the “Mad Men” set than a university lecture hall in 2013. Yet the conversation sparked by this utterance has brought renewed focus to an important question: why are there so few women hedge fund managers?

The Real Problem

Among the most vocal responders to Tudor Jones’ pronouncement were two well-known figures in money management: Jacki Zehner, the first woman trader and youngest woman to be made a partner at Goldman Sachs, and Susan Shaffer Solovay, founder and CEO of Pomegranate Capital (a fund of funds that invested exclusively with women-run hedge funds). The pair offered a rebuttal to Tudor Jones in a recent LinkedIn article that has received over 10,000 views.

In their response (Zehner elaborated more on the controversy this week), Zehner and Solovay referenced a 2009 report by the National Council for Research on Women, Women in Fund Management: A Road Map to Critical Mass – and Why It Matters, which identified a number of reasons for the paucity of women hedge fund managers. Contrary to the lack of focus cited by Tudor Jones, the report found that:

  • There is a prevailing assumption that women are not good managers of risk (a supposition not borne out by the facts);
  • There is a dearth of women entering the field who have the backgrounds necessary to achieve success;
  • Women encounter more difficulties raising capital than their male counterparts.

The Real Story

Despite Tudor Jones’ assertion that motherhood and money management don’t mix, there are women around the world managing millions, exceedingly well, on a daily basis. The real issue with Tudor Jones’ stance, notes Anne-Marie Slaughter in a recent piece for The Atlantic, is that his definition for success is outdated. “The problem is not that Tudor Jones’ definition of a successful trader makes him discriminate against mothers,” Slaughter asserts. “It is that a definition of a successful trader that excludes mothers and caregiving fathers is narrow, short-sighted, and wrong.”

Slaughter notes that many young women in the field are pushing back and making their own rules for success, rather than defining themselves in terms of the traditional, male-dominated hierarchy.

Take Karen Finerman, of Metropolitan Capital in New York, a hedge fund manager who manages approximately $400 million dollars in assets together with a family comprised of two sets of twins, four nannies, and a husband who himself runs a very profitable private-equity fund. In a 2008 interview with The Guardian, Finerman expressed her belief that there were many advantages to being a woman in the hedge-fund business, including humility. “A lot of men have a little bit more hubris, and I think humility is very important in being a good investor,” Finerman notes. “You can say, ‘You know what? I had a thesis, but it’s not working out the way I thought, maybe I’m just wrong, cut my losses and get out’.”

In a recent WE Interview, AllianceBernstein’s Head of Human Capital and Chief Talent Officer, Lori Massad acknowledged the difficulties women face in redefining the work-life balance, and cited her own experience as proof that motherhood and work are not mutually exclusive. “There were times in my life when I couldn’t work the twelve hour days I do now,” Massad observes. “I’m proof there’s a lot of benefit to giving women the flexibility and the empathy they need to keep working while raising a family. Once the woman is ready to come back full-time, the benefits of that employee’s loyalty and commitment are invaluable.”

Although Tudor Jones’ remarks are distressing and indicative of attitudes that still require change, they are, in the end, just words, and in many respects a gift, as they make clear the challenges yet to be surmounted by women in finance. As Edward Jones investment strategist Kate Warne observed in the Wall Street Journal’s MoneyBeat, “It’s distressing if he thinks it’s okay to say those things,” she said. “I think it’s a measure of how much further we have to go as a society, but beyond that, it’s not very relevant to me or to most women.”

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