“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,” Jones said, according to a video of his remarks The Washington Post obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. “And I’ve just seen it happen over and over.”
Jones’s comments came during the question-and-answer session of an April 26 symposium at the university’s McIntire School of Commerce. The panel included prominent investors Julian Robertson, John Griffin and Jones, 58, a 1976 U-Va. graduate who has donated more than $100 million to the university.
Jones said in a statement to The Post on Thursday that his “off the cuff remarks” were made “with regard to global macro traders,” who work in a small, intense field in which “emotional highs and lows are obstacles to success.” Jones has four children with his wife, Sonia Jones.
“As I’ve told my three daughters, all of whom I’ve at one time encouraged to go into macro trading, any man or woman can do anything to which they set their heart and mind,” Jones said in the statement. “I believe that great success is possible in any field — from music to mathematics to macro trading.”
To encourage an “open and candid discussion,” McIntire Dean Carl P. Zeithaml had asked the audience not to record the event or to quote the panelists afterward.
“No quotes with attribution should leave the room,” Zeithaml said. “We must prohibit any discussion or description of the event in print or video, through electronic media or through Internet-based technologies including Web sites, blogs or social media, such as Twitter or Facebook.”
The commerce school recorded the event, and U-Va. made a password-protected link to the video available to The Post this week. Zeithaml was out of the country Thursday and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Jones made his remarks about mothers toward the end of the symposium, when a person in the audience submitted a question — labeled “elephant in the room” — that asked the investors what it would take to get more diversity on such panels.
“You will never see as many great women investors or traders as men — period, end of story,” Jones said. “And the reason why is not because they are not capable. They are very capable.”
Jones said trading requires a “very specific skill set” and focus that is vulnerable to emotional events, such as divorce. “The emotional distraction that comes from divorce is so overwhelming,” he said. “You can just automatically subtract 10 to 20 percent from any manager if he is going through a divorce.”
The same is true of women who have children, Jones said. He gave the example of two female co-workers at the New York brokerage E.F. Hutton in the 1970s. “They both got married,” he said, “and then they both had — which in my mind is as big of a killer as divorce is — they both had children.”
For that reason, Jones said, the top of the industry probably won’t change.
“If you told me that this woman was not going to have a baby — certainly can get married but not going to have a baby — then I think it would be a completely different panel 20 years from now,” Jones said. “Assuming that she’s not going to have a baby.”
The other members of the panel shifted in their chairs as Jones spoke. There was awkward laughter when Jones said “bosom.” Other panelists offered differing perspectives.
Griffin told the audience that Jones “gave an honest answer to an honest question.” The moderator, Jeffrey Walker, ex-chairman and chief executive of a global private-equity firm, at one point jumped in and said, “So another way of looking at it . . . ”
Later in the discussion, Jones tried to clarify his comments. He also said that he had given a similar speech to a group of women who work in hedge funds.
“I’ve probably said too much and gotten myself in trouble,” Jones said during the symposium.
Zeithaml, the school’s dean, said he received complaints from alumnae and female faculty members immediately after the forum, which was held on a Friday. The following Monday morning, he sent a lengthy e-mail to all the commerce school’s students and staff members to further explain Jones’s comments — which he says were misinterpreted — and to urge women to pursue careers “in industries or professions that have not traditionally included women in large numbers.”
The e-mail also included an open letter from a 2001 graduate who has worked for a hedge fund. She urged young women to ignore comments like those made by Jones.
“There are many people who agree with the alumnus’s comments,” the graduate wrote. “When you come across those people, go the other way. Life is hard enough. You don’t need negative perspectives or people who tell you what is not possible in your life. Go around them and then prove them wrong. Do well, and come back to tell the next generation of women what is possible.”