NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin: Is Motherhood Killing Wall Street Careers?
Bernard Center president & CEO Michelle D. Bernard joins host Michel Martin, NPR’s Jennifer Ludden and Time Magazine’s Rana Foroohar, the women writers and commentators of today’s “Beauty Shop”, to discuss the debate hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones sparked after he said motherhood was a career killer in his industry.
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I’m Michel Martin. Coming up, if you are at all interested in matters of health and spirituality, then you have probably heard the name Deepak Chopra. Well, it turns out there is another one like him at home. His brother Sanjiv Chopra is an accomplished physician in his own right, but he chose a different course for his life. We’ll talk with both of them together about their new joint memoir, “Brotherhood, Dharma, Destiny, and the American Dream.” That is later in this program.
But first, it’s time for our Beauty Shop. That’s where our roundtable of women, writers, journalists and thinkers talk about what’s in the news and what’s on their minds. And because there are a number of stories percolating in the news about women and work, we though this was a very good time to get them together for a new do.
Joining us now, Jennifer Ludden. She is a national correspondent for NPR, covering families and social trends. Michelle Bernard is back with us. She’s president and CEO of The Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. That’s an independent think tank focused on women’s issues. Also with us, Rana Foroohar. She is an assistant managing editor for Time Magazine, covering business and economics. Welcome to you all. Thank you all so much for joining us.
JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Thank you.
MICHELLE BERNARD: Thank you, Michel.
RANA FOROOHAR: Thank you.
MARTIN: So let’s start with this new Pew Research study that finds that more working moms are now the top earners in their homes. In 40 percent of households, Jennifer, with children under 18, the mom is the main breadwinner. Back in the ’60s, it was only 18 percent. Now, you’ve looked through this study. What are some of the causes of this? Is this a closing of the income gap, or are there other factors involved?
LUDDEN: It’s a lot of things happening to build up to this big, stunning number, which we’ve seen building for a while, but it’s still a shocker to a lot of people to hear. As Pew breaks it down, there’s two different portraits here. A third of this number are married moms who earn more than their husband. Maybe they’re the sole breadwinner in that family, and they are the main provider for that family.
Two-thirds of this 40 percent is single mothers. And I believe that would include co-habiting, maybe some are living with the father of the child or some man, but they are unmarried when they give birth. And this has just been growing exponentially. We’ve seen, you know, it move from – there is a disproportionately African-American and Hispanic population here, but you’ve also seen it work its way into the white populations, up the socioeconomic scale into working class families.
You maybe have some college, but not a college degree, and you’re having kids, but you’re just not getting married in the same timeframe that people used to.
MARTIN: You know, Michelle, one of the interesting things about this study is that even though this is now such a significant part of our economic life and working life, the poll also shows a lot of ambivalence about this among Americans. I mean, for example, the study shows that in two-parent homes, total family income is higher when the mother is the primary breadwinner, but a majority of Americans still believe that kids are better off when mothers stay home. I’m curious what you make of that.
BERNARD: Yeah. I just – I find the entire poll absolutely fascinating, because when you – also, what they saw is when they asked people should women return to quote-unquote “traditional jobs,” you know, the resounding majority of the respondents said absolutely not. But one of the things that we see in this opinion poll, as well as just anecdotally, is that people are suspicious when the dad is the quote-unquote “stay-at home parent.”
So when they have, you know, mommy helpers day at school and it is the father who shows up, there are stories about people looking at this father with suspicion, like why are you here? Why isn’t mom here? So there is a double-edged sword. Families are beginning to change, change the family dynamic. But as a society, as a whole, we still question the quote-unquote “proper roles of mom and dad.”
MARTIN: Rana, what do you think about this? I’m wondering if this is part of the reason why this ambivalence is playing out in policy, why there really doesn’t seem to be the kind of coherent social policy around this that you can find in other places like in France, for example, where the network of childcare is far more extensive and of far higher quality and far more consistent than you see here.
FOROOHAR: Yeah. It’s a very interesting question. I mean, the truth is that there are problems – different problems on both sides of the Atlantic. I was actually a foreign correspondent in Europe for about 10 years, and yes, it’s true that there’s a larger social safety net and there is a more extensive network of childcare, but there’s also an assumption in a lot of those societies that women are not – are going to step off track when they have their first child, certainly after their second child.
And you can actually see that in the nature of childcare. So in France, particularly in Germany, in the UK where I lived, the hours of state-sponsored childcare are often very limited. Children in Germany still come home for lunch. So, you know, a mother is expected to be at home. Now, that’s changing slowly, and in the U.S., I think we do have an assumption that you need to have wrap-around childcare.
I mean, more women are working statistically after they have children in the U.S. versus Europe. But we do still have, you know, as has been pointed out, this ambivalence about what are the gender roles. One thing that I see, though, that I think is going to make a difference is as the younger generation comes into the workforce at a time when there is structurally high unemployment – that I believe is going to stay high for some time – you don’t have these huge gains that you might have been able to make in the past for both men and women.
So I think that people are, of both genders, are reevaluating their work-life balance and saying okay, you know, I A, I might not be hired full time right out of school. I may not have the kind of job or upward mobility I want. I’m going to develop more of a lifestyle. And I’m kind of seeing that on both sides, amongst younger men that I work with, as well. I think that there’s more of an assumption that, hey, you know, work has to balance with family.
MARTIN: Speaking of assumptions about people and work, let’s get to this next story, here. And if you’re just joining us, we’re having a visit to the Beauty Shop, with – that’s our roundtable of women writers, journalists and thinkers. In the seats this week are Time Magazine’s Rana Foroohar – that’s who was speaking just now – NPR’s Jennifer Ludden and policy analyst Michelle Bernard.
Speaking of assumptions about women in the workplace, I know you’ve heard this. The hedge fund billionaire, Paul Tudor Jones, was at a symposium at the University of Virginia last month, and someone in the audience asked, you know, why the panel was all middle-aged white men on stage. And the questioner all asked what might be done to bring more diversity to this field.
Well, the Washington Post, for some reason that I’m still not clear, had to, under the Freedom of Information Act, request video of the talk, and now we hear perhaps why. This is what he had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
PAUL TUDOR JONES: As soon as that baby’s lips touch that girl’s bosom, forget it. Every single investment idea, every desire to understand what’s going to make this go up or going to 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.
MARTIN: Now, Rana.
FOROOHAR: I just love hearing that. Just loving hearing that.
MARTIN: Yeah, big reaction, obviously. A lot of people were saying, first of all, why are you so special? Is hedge fund banking really that more special than people who land aircraft – you know, land planes on aircraft carriers, which women do, and, you know, all manner of other things? But nevertheless, Rana, you covered business and finance. I just – I think it’s interesting – and also pointing out that he was operating from a data set of two.
He was pointing out that there are two women that he personally knew, and this is what he’s basing this opinion on. Even having said all that, Rana, is this – do you think that this attitude is prevalent, and do you think it has impact on the workplace?
FOROOHAR: Oh, well, surely it is prevalent on Wall Street. I mean, what I found fascinating – I actually wrote my column this week on this topic – is, you know, what Paul Tudor Jones seems to be saying – and to be fair, he did also say he noted the decrease in performance for men who are going through a divorce, let’s say. But the connective tissue seems to be that, OK, good traders simply do not let their emotions run away with them.
What’s fascinating is that since the financial crisis, there’s actually been a tremendous amount of research done about emotions and trading, because regulators and politicians and bankers themselves what to understand how better to control the boom-bust cycles that lead to the crisis. And one of the findings has been that short-term traders in particular have what is called a winner’s effect that has to do with testosterone.
So a trader goes out and starts winning, and his T levels, his testosterone levels, start to rise, which creates a snowballing effect of confidence and risk-taking. And what happens is in the short term, that will typically lead to gains, but over the long haul, there will eventually be a tipping point at which the risk-taking becomes counterproductive, and you start to lose money.
And so it’s almost always – and if you remember JP Morgan’s London Whale that lost billions of dollars a few months back, it’s almost always guys that have been on big winning streaks that have the big losses. Now when you look at women, they tend to not have those huge wins and huge losses as frequently, but over the longer haul, five years, 10 years, there are studies to show they trade just as well, if not better, than men.
So this has a lot of interesting policy implications. There are hedge funds and banks that are starting to think about pulling traders off the desk when they start to lose a percentage and thinking about giving high winners breaks to let them sort of calm down and get off that T effect.
So it’s fascinating research, and there are a lot of gender implications to this.
MARTIN: Michelle, what about that, though? I mean, you’re known as kind of a contrarian. I mean, is there any truth to the fact that this is a predictable outcome, that one’s focus does divert?
BERNARD: I don’t want to say that it’s a totally predictable outcome. I mean, when I first heard the statement, I was outraged because there is – you know, there’s a great chance that a lot of employers are going to look and say I don’t want to hire any women of childbearing years because their brain doesn’t work when they’re pregnant.
That’s the implication of what he’s saying. Or when they see a baby, they no longer have a desire to be in the workforce. That being said, there are a lot of women who have children and they make a conscious decision between work and family balance. If you are in a position where you can take time out of the workforce, there are women who will say I don’t want to work with a guy like this; I would rather be at home raising my child, and I will go back into the workforce five years from now.
MARTIN: I’m still puzzled by this concept that men apparently don’t have children.
MARTIN: I’m wondering how all these kids got here.
BERNARD: Well, I mean, but the thing is, I mean realistically, if you look at most families that – if you take a look at most American families of a certain socioeconomic status, meaning people who – where one parent has the luxury of being able to stay home – and that is not a lot of people – but when you look at those people, for whatever reason, men don’t seem to have the desire to stay home and say I’m going to raise children.
And then there’s the other factor that we talked about earlier, which is when a dad decides to stay home, people look at him with suspicion and think something’s wrong with him.
LUDDEN: They think it’s fine for the dad to be at work, but the mom should be in the home, yeah.
MARTIN: Jennifer, we’re going to take – need to take a short break in a minute, and we’ll come right back to you on this question, but the fact is there have been – you know, mothers have served as a secretary of state in this country with, you know, some distinction. Mothers are in Congress. Mothers are, as we said, you know, landing planes on aircraft carriers, are they not? I’m just, you know…
LUDDEN: They’re doing everything except for president, so far. Yeah, no, he’s clearly – and what I loved about this video was the body language of the other, old, middle-age white men on that panel with him.
LUDDEN: They just kept moving ever so slightly away, distancing themselves, and a couple spoke up to say, well, gee, you know, I find my female managers are very valuable.
MARTIN: Let’s take a short break. That was NPR national correspondent Jennifer Ludden, along with Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women Politics and Public Policy and Rana Foroohar, columnist for Time Magazine. We’re taking a short break, but we’ll be back with more Beauty Shop and news about the embattled Rutgers University athletic director Julie Hermann. So we hope you’ll stay with us on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I’m Michel Martin.
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