A Billionaire on Working Mothers: Babies Kill Women’s Focus

May 24, 2013, 6:07 pm

By KJ DELL’ANTONIA

“Every so often, someone — usually, but not always, an older white man — decides to gather up his favorite old stereotype about women, dust it off, polish it up and give it a fresh airing. This time around, it’s a hedge-fund billionaire.

Paul Tudor Jones told an audience of University of Virginia students, alumni and others last month that when it comes to the laser focus needed to succeed in the macro trading industry, for women, babies are “killer.”

“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.”

Mr. Jones was apparently under the impression that he could speak freely, as the dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, where Mr. Jones was on a panel, had directed the audience not to record or quote from the event. But the university itself recorded the panel, and The Washington Post obtained a video of his remarks through a Freedom of Information Act request.

No woman working in a male-dominated industry (or, really, any industry) will fail to recognize that what Mr. Jones was willing to put into words is a prejudice that lurks unspoken in many hiring decisions (and isn’t limited to men). Some people in positions of power believe that women of a certain age are likely to have babies, take maternity leaves and then quit or give their job less than 100 percent once the baby arrives. As he put it, “As soon as that baby’s lips touched that girl’s bosom, forget it.” He said it, but while we hope it’s changing, most of us know that he’s not the only one who is thinking it.

It’s all too easy to criticize Mr. Jones, and maybe have a little fun pointing out that some men notoriously lose their own “laser focus” when lips and bosoms are involved. But cheap shots don’t change minds. What we really need to do is think harder about why this particular prejudice about women and work still holds such sway.”

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by | May 28, 2013 · 7:48 pm

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