From his speech:
"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 connection between that mother and that baby."
That's the part of his talk that has everyone riled up.
But we should think about all this a little harder before we go around slamming the "s" word down. In fact, simply dismissing PTJ as a sexist distracts from the most important part of what he's said — that there are social and structural expectations of women that detract from their focus in the work place.
And if nothing else, traders must be focused.
I'll say this: Perhaps PTJ should have said it more delicately, but he wasn't saying that women are innately bad traders – he just said there will never be as many stellar ones as there are men.
"...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."
So if not capability, what's the reason? It's time, and more than that, it's our social structure.
"So now, let's take the typical female that enters the workforce. In my 20s, then I was exposed to the pits and I had this incredible ... I was getting all this information because I was there at ground zero during one of the most explosive times in history of the futures markets. So it was fantastic. So my most formative ages, which were 21 to 30, I was there again now 10,000 reps became 20 or 30,000 reps. Take a girl that was my age 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."
The problem we're addressing here is a social, structural issue having to do with gender and expectation. We're belittling it by pretending it's a problem with one man. PTJ was just plainspoken enough to talk about it in public from the perspective of someone who's trying to run a successful business.
His point is that women are expected to get married, expected to have children, and expected to keep a house ... still. Because of that, there will not be as many women who choose to live the grueling lifestyle of being a trader and a mother at the same time (and become successful traders while doing it) as there are men who are successful fathers and traders.
See, women go to work, come home, and do more work.
The stats say it all. Report after report — working women still do the lion's share of household chores. They're expected to. Sheryl Sandberg said the most important part of a woman's career is choosing a husband. In this case, it's one who will take on tasks and duties that have been, and often still are, considered gender specific to women.
As a woman in her 20s in the workplace, I can see that today is different from 1980, but not by much. Women are still expected to get married, have kids, and keep a home whether or not they stay in it all day. Men are just expected to be great providers, good at their jobs, and good fathers. They enter into marriages not knowing how to boil an egg, let alone cook a meal for their kids.
Bottom line: What women fought for (and are still fighting for) is the opportunity to either stay home with the kids or get in the pits and trade without anyone raising an eyebrow. I don't fault anyone for picking either, and if more women decide to stay home and there are fewer great women traders, that's fine too — as long as they get to make the choice.
The problem is that the eyebrows still rise when a woman can't do it all to have it all. Until that changes, there won't be as many women who want to work so hard at work and at home.
Finally, where I don't agree with in PTJ's argument is that this can never change. It could, but it's got to be everyone, not just him, who let women make a choice about where they can really focus their energies.
Whatever it is, that's a personal affair.
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