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Why Paul Tudor Jones Is Wrong about Women Traders

Institutional Investor's Alpha managing editor Amanda Cantrell on the Tudor Investment Corp. founder's comments at a University of Virginia panel.

 Tudor Investment Corp. founder Paul Tudor Jones II

I can’t believe I’m writing this in 2013, but here goes:

By now you have probably seen the video footage of Paul Tudor Jones, the founder of Tudor Investment Corp., explaining why he thinks there aren’t that many great women traders. Speaking on a panel at the University of Virginia that also included hedge fund luminaries Julian Robertson Jr. and John Griffin, Jones was asked why there are so few successful female hedge fund traders.

Jones started off in fairly neutral territory. He initially talked about how he redeems from any manager who is going through divorce, because this is a “focus killer” that will ultimately distract the manager from doing his or her job. But then he started to dig himself into a hole. After launching into what the Wall Street gossip website Dealbreaker described as a “strangely graphic depiction of breastfeeding,” Jones went on to argue that women who bear children are no longer capable of maintaining the laser-like focus that is a crucial characteristic of a good macro trader. To put it more simply: Jones thinks that once a woman has a baby, she loses her ability to focus on anything else.

Perhaps I’m taking Jones’ comments a little personally. As I type this, my four month old son is napping nearby. (When duty calls, I am just as capable of ignoring my child as the next person.) And while I’m no macro trader, I think I’m just as focused on my job as I was before. But my irritation with Jones’ remarks actually has little to do with me. I’m annoyed on behalf of the many women I know in the hedge fund industry who have borne children and maintained thriving careers.

Take Renée Haugerud, the founder of commodities-focused investment firm Galtere. Haugerud is a veteran commodities trader and mother who launched her firm back in 1999, outlasting most of her male peers in an industry where few businesses make it to the ten-year mark. And look at Leda Braga, who manages billions of dollars at London-based managed futures firm BlueCrest Capital. Braga is also a mother, which hasn’t seemed to stop her from building and managing a long-running portfolio that boasts an enviable track record.

Those are just two examples, but it’s not hard to come up with many other women who have successfully combined motherhood and hedge fund management (including Kathleen Kelley, who worked for Jones at Tudor and now manages her own hedge fund firm, Queen Anne’s Gate Capital, and, outside the macro world, Jamie Zimmerman of Litespeed Management). It’s interesting to me that, to support his argument, Jones cited two women he worked with back in the 1980s. That’s a pretty small sample size.

I wish Jones would make it a point to attend the annual female portfolio manager panel put on by 100 Women in Hedge Funds, an industry organization that has outgrown its name and then some (it now boasts more than 10,000 members). These women not only run successful hedge fund portfolios, but many of them are mothers. A lot of them boast long-term track records that put many of their male peers to shame. Indeed, a recent survey by accounting firm Rothstein Kass showed that female hedge fund managers outperformed their male peers by six percentage points for the first three quarters of 2012.

To be fair, Jones did not say that women do not have the ability to become great traders; in fact, he made a point of saying that he thinks they do. Over on our Longs & Shorts blog, Institutional Investor’s Alpha columnist Stephen Taub argues that while Jones’ comments certainly sounded sexist, if you analyze what he said, he was really saying that having a family is a focus killer, and that applies to men as well as women.

But if that’s the case, then what does that mean for Jones, a married father of four, including three daughters? At best it would imply that he applies a double standard to himself and his employees.

I doubt that is the case, because I don’t actually think Jones was making a gender-neutral argument. Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted Jones’ comments; he did later say that he was “speaking off the cuff.” But in my experience, off-the-cuff remarks tend to be a pretty good reflection of what a person is really thinking. And what Paul Tudor Jones seems to be thinking is that women can’t be great traders and mothers at the same time.

If you agree with Jones, that’s your prerogative. But know that your regressive thinking may cause you to miss out on some truly talented portfolio managers.

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