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Scene Last Night: Chiltons Boost Botanical Garden, Women

New York Botanical Garden
Sarah Chilton, a college senior, and her father, Richard Chilton, CEO of Chilton Investment Co. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

On the dance floor with his daughter last night at the New York Botanical Garden’s Conservatory Ball, Richard Chilton, chief executive officer of Chilton Investment Co., addressed the matter of gender in his business.

It was a hot topic after the publication two weeks ago of comments at the University of Virginia by his friend Paul Tudor Jones. (One such zinger: “You will never see as many great women investors or traders as men -- period, end of story.”)

“I don’t know about traders, but women can all be good investment professionals,” Chilton said. “The fact of the matter is it’s all specific to the person. It’s the individual. Gender has nothing to do with it.”

Half of the professionals on Chilton Investment’s executive team are female, according to the company’s website. “We’ve been leaders on this,” he said. (The portfolio managers listed are all men.)

For other signs of gender equality, Chilton pointed to Emily Rafferty, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whom he called “one of the most impressive executives I’ve ever met,” and his wife.

Maureen Chilton is in her second three-year term as chairman of the New York Botanical Garden. Both are the first women to hold their positions.

‘Very Cool’

“I think it’s amazing,” said Sarah Chilton, a senior at the College of Charleston, of her mother’s volunteer job as steward of the New York Botanical Garden’s finances, programs and staff. “She’s always been understated, not too controlling, so to see her in a powerful, creative position, it’s very cool.”

At that point the father-daughter pair resumed dancing to a very slow version of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” Someone joked that the band was playing in “Greenwich time,” after the Connecticut enclave.

Across the tent, past rosemary and lavender plants and a burbling fountain, all meant to evoke exhibitions on the Italian Renaissance garden, Maureen Chilton, 52, held court.

“What I enjoy is that it’s major teamwork,” she said of working with the garden’s president and CEO, Gregory Long. Many staff members are women; she and another female board member have talked about “doing a book about the women of the garden.”

Chilton reminded guests of the garden’s research work and role in studying Latin American plants for more than a century.

“You’ve only seen a little, little corner of the garden,” she told guests of the 250-acre institution in the Bronx. The party raised $1.5 million for children’s education and research.

Orchid Columns

Also last night, the Wildlife Conservation Society honored its chairman since 2007, Ward W. Woods, and introduced its new president and CEO, Cristian Samper, at a gala at the Central Park Zoo. Columns of orchids celebrated the society’s work to protect wildlife in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Tony James, president of the Blackstone Group LP, arrived as the sea lions began barking to urge guests to sit for dinner.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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