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Making finance more accessible

March 12, 2021

Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman joins Optiver on International Women’s Day

Optiver was honoured to host Adena Friedman, CEO and President of Nasdaq, for a fascinating virtual conversation on International Women’s Day, 8 March. With more than 20 years of industry leadership and expertise, Adena has significantly shaped Nasdaq’s transformation into a leading global exchange and technology solutions company, with operations across six continents.

In a wide-ranging question and answer session with Optiver employees worldwide, Adena discussed areas including her professional career, market structure, technology, innovation and Nasdaq’s strategic growth. And as befitted the date, she shared candid views on diversity in the financial industry, and the work still needed to create a truly diverse and inclusive environment.

“I tend to think of things in terms of decades, not single years… If you think about what the industry was like in the 80s, 90s and 2000s compared to today, we’ve seen an enormous amount of progress, particularly for women,” Adena noted. “From the 1990s to the 2000s it changed from the head to the heart, with senior managers really wanting to create an inclusive environment. That has brought us to today, when women are running major banks and in the senior echelons of financial institutions.”

Beyond gender diversity, there is still much to be done, she said. “Looking more broadly at ethnicity and other backgrounds, we are much further behind. We have to do more to go from head to heart, and say we want to do this for people of all backgrounds.”

Championing inclusive growth

Adena described her own education at an all-girls school where maths and science success were celebrated but finance never mentioned as a career option. She recommended making STEM subjects more accessible to children and exposing them to those subjects’ practical applications, including finance.

“Make it accessible, bring them in early and make them excited about it,” she advised.

Championing inclusive growth and prosperity is core to Nasdaq’s purpose, Adena said. “That means making finance more accessible. Making investing more accessible, and making capital raising for entrepreneurs more accessible so they can recognise the power of capital markets to enable people to meet their potential. Everything we do should be to achieve that purpose.”