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Paul Tudor Jones Should Stop Romanticizing Breastfeeding

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Paul Tudor Jones II has come along to entertain us at precisely the right moment -- as Michele Bachmann announced her departure from the House of Representatives, sending pundits into mourning. The guru of macro hedge funds recently expounded on the lack of diversity in the world of finance, citing the allure of women's breasts and the evils of divorce:

You will never see as many great women investors or traders as men. Period. End of story. And the reason why is not because they're not capable. They're very capable. Like, one of my No. 1 rules as an investor is as soon as my manager, if I find out that manager is going through divorce, redeem immediately. Because the emotional distraction that comes from divorce is so overwhelming. The idea that you could think straight for 60 seconds and be able to make a rational decision is impossible, particularly when their kids are involved... Take a girl that was my age [20s] at that point in time, particularly back in the 70s. I can think of two that actually started E.F. Hutton with me. Within four years, by 1980, right when I was getting ready to launch my company they both got married. Then they both had, which in my mind is as big of a killer as divorce is, they both had children. And as soon as that baby's lips touched that girl's bosom, forget it. Every single investment idea, every desire to understand what's 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. I just see it happen over and over. -- Paul Tudor Jones II, Tudor Investment Corporation

Naturally, this prompted a fiery backlash from feminists and other smart people. But while everyone is busy defending women, no one has taken issue with Paul Tudor Jones' giddy characterization of breastfeeding as "the most beautiful experience which a man will never share."

Why do otherwise intelligent, educated folk insist on romanticizing breastfeeding?

It is no more of a "beautiful experience" than putting food on the family table -- which men do just as well as women. Profound "beauty" can be found in the way nature works to provide the right sustenance for newborns -- the efficiency and economics of which may appeal to Paul Tudor Jones -- but the delivery system is no reason to get all dewy-eyed. In fact, many modern mothers complain about the process as much as they revel in it: hellish feeding schedules, leaky breasts, mastitis, sleeplessness, teething babies, lack of appropriate public spaces for nursing, and so on.

The fact is: breastfeeding is a bodily function important to the wellbeing of newborns, but not essential to bonding or any other social good. Some women enjoy breastfeeding. Some women also enjoy ski holidays and George Clooney flicks. None of which is germane to their ability to keep an eye on the S&P500, housing starts, the Eurozone trade balance, and Bundesbank moves, in order to make momentous decisions about their firm's Dollar/Euro position.

Paul Tudor Jones' fatuous comments expose his lazy, retrograde thinking. With his superior intellect, he could easily solve the breastfeeding dilemma -- in fact, a few modern companies have already done so. It's called daycare in the workplace, Mr. Jones (or is it Mr. Tudor Jones, these tripartite names can be so British and confusing.) A nursing room next to the trading floor. With a Fridge. And a breast pump. And a changing table. At an annual cost far lower than what you spend on investor travel and entertainment, I'll wager.

Financial houses already pay to bring lunch onto trading floors, so those brilliant traders don't have to leave their desks, except to go to the bathroom or down to the street for a smoke. So hire a couple of nannies, slap on some Dr. Seuss wallpaper, stock up on Pampers, spring for a comfy sofa with washable covers -- and unleash those mommies' ferocious trading instincts.

Now divorce is an intractable problem. I agree completely with Mr. (Tudor) Jones that someone going through the devastation of a divorce is often unable to focus entirely on the job at hand. There is nothing an employer can do about this. The wisest move you can make when interviewing someone for a job as all-consuming as trading is meet the spouse and ask a lot of personal questions about the solidity of that intimate relationship -- though this may give your HR manager heartburn. Or hire more married gay traders -- their divorce statistics seem to be a lot lower than straight couples, maybe because they're fighting so hard for the right to marry.

Labor rights activists may be well-advised to shift their focus from fighting for more maternity and paternity leave benefits, to legislating for "divorce leave". If you look at the stats, it's likely that, at any given time, there are more employees in a Fortune 500 firm going through a divorce than lactating.

The author cut her teeth in the Global Markets training program at JPMorgan and went on to work in investment banking in New York and Asia.