One of the most powerful men in the financial world recently shared his unfiltered opinion of women and Wall Street. Many were stunned to hear Paul Tudor Jones' quote: "As soon as that baby's lips touched that girl's bosom, forget it."
As one of the many women who spent years in finance being promoted to a senior rank, but not beyond the diamond-encrusted gerbil wheel, these comments were initially disappointing. After pausing to think about it (and being in my sixth week of maternity leave for my third child provided me some extra time to do so), I realize that the uproar that's followed is actually a good thing. Perhaps the energy spent condemning Mr. Jones for offering an unfiltered (and likely accurate) opinion, would be better used taking the opportunity to dive deeper into the larger issue at hand.
During the last five years, we've heard almost every major bank chief executive officer speak about how much he celebrates diversity and considers himself a champion for women. We've seen some of those same men and their senior executives slip out the side door immediately following giving their Welcome Speeches at their generously budgeted women's conferences. During my eight years at Deutsche Bank, the bank ticked every box with the elite development programs, coaching, mission statements for the advancement of women and I was proud to be a part of it. Yet today, there are 15 executives reporting to the CEO; none are women.
Since leaving DB, I have participated in many conferences and swish events that other financial institutions have held for their women's groups. Those institutions too have very few senior women in their senior ranks, especially in trading. So where is the disconnect?
Paul Tudor Jones' remarks were ugly and revealing. Since many of the "champions" do more flag-waving than needle-moving, maybe in some perverse way the Southerner with infinite resources could be the catalyst for change. Paul spoke about his love of game-playing and competition. The most talented investors are animals solely focused on winning. In reality, no one on Wall Street cares about anything except performance. It isn't easy for women to navigate their way to the most coveted trading positions, especially with the lack of sponsorship, but when they do it's all about the numbers. Investing is pure. You get graded every day and the numbers speak for themselves. No doubt bias exists everywhere, but Wall Street is a ferocious battlefield with everyone in search of the next rainmaker or best strategy. It shouldn't matter who delivers it. If that is true, why haven't more women reached the top? I challenge Mr. Jones to embrace his well-honed problem solving skills and help answer why so many resources are devoted to recruiting and retaining women when they may be destined for the pink ghetto.
Fifty-seven percent of college graduates are women. Professional women are delaying starting families in favor of career advancement and more women are continuing the trend to return to work prior to maternity leave allotment. Women have shown up to play and they are in the game more than ever. According to the Pew Research Poll released last week, mothers are the sole or primary provider in four-in-ten households with children. So those women are out there working, but the numbers at top ranks across industries are thin and men continue to dominate the financial industry. Wall Street is not the right career for everyone or for every woman. That is clear. But it can't be wrong for every woman. A big job in a trading house can't only be the head of Human Resources or chief operating officer in charge of overhead. Talented women traders are out there and a special effort is needed to recognize them.
The assignment for the trading community is to recognize women traders and investors do exist and give them more trading responsibility. Sponsor them, mentor them, but do what you do best. Take some risk. Go out on a limb for a female trader. Use your instincts, the gut as you like to call it, to identify women and put them on the fast track to the top. A few moves will cost you money, but it's a rounding error. It's another chance to win.
It is the time to forget the seminars, forget the keynote speeches, forget the lead sponsorship of the women's wine & cheese events and create meaningful change. From Warren Buffett to Jamie Dimon to Paul Tudor Jones, no one has cracked the code and put a critical mass of top women in the C-Suite or near it. The numbers don't lie.
So I begrudgingly thank Paul Tudor Jones for raising the very unattractive side of this issue. We don't like to hear it. Now I must raise an even thornier dilemma. What if he's right? Is it bias that leads to the current situation or reality? Are there hundreds of women who want to be macro traders that are being held back by the men or the establishment? Or do their skills really vanish the moment they have a child? The thing about Wall Street is that people are very focused on performance. If you can put up the numbers, it shouldn't matter if you wear a dress or a tie. So let's test Paul's hypothesis. Remove the bias and see if mothers can succeed.
Paul lost last week, but the game's not over. He can make a difference now. This is Paul's chance to win -- for women fighting their way to the top, for his three daughters, for his industry, for himself.