Skip to Content

Women can change Wall Street — here’s how

Adena Friedman, president of NasdaqAdena Friedman, president of Nasdaq
Adena Friedman, president of NasdaqPhotograph by Christopher Galluzzo

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How can more women break into Wall Street? is written by Adena Friedman, President of Nasdaq.

The traditional path onto Wall Street for women typically involves getting your degree from a top-20 university and then landing a position within an analyst program at a prestigious firm like JPMorgan (JPM), Citi (C), Bank of America (BAC), Goldman Sachs (GS), or Morgan Stanley (MS), all of which actively recruit women graduates. There, you would spend the required “two years” determining where you fit within the company and how to pursue your career. However, while this remains a coveted and valid path to success, it isn’t the only one.

If you’re working towards a career on Wall Street don’t limit yourself to an analyst program – this isn’t the only door of opportunity. There are many other areas on Wall Street where your skills and talents will be equally as valued.

So, where should you look then?

For starters, don’t think of Wall Street as just the sell side. There’s a whole world out there that is buying what the sell side is offering in fact, at a number of funds, jobs on the buy side can be more lucrative than analyst positions. But even adding only the buy side to your perspective is still too narrow. Many parts of Wall Street would not exist without the exchanges and IT aspects, which from my personal experience are both extremely interesting and rewarding areas to work. As a matter of fact, Nasdaq would not be where it is today if not for some of the great women who have held managerial and leadership roles in various areas within the company.

Entry-level jobs are excellent opportunites to educate young women about the realities of the financial world, and can prepare them for the next move up within the firm or another area of the financial industry. And I can assure you that exchanges and financial technology firms are fast-paced, dynamic organizations that often sit at the center of the financial fabric of our economy. Additionally, industry oversight organizations, such as FINRA and the SEC, are also critical components of the financial ecosystem and present relevant opportunities for women. It’s important to experience as many parts of an organization as you can – because some day, you may have the chance to lead that organization.

Regardless of how or where you enter Wall Street use your inherent skills and strengths to succeed. One of many strengths that I often see in successful women on Wall Street is a responsible balance between risk taking and risk mitigation – the ability to assess situations smartly and make the right medium-to-long-term decisions without being lured into reckless, short-term profit-taking. Particularly in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, the ability to achieve this balance was highly prized and much sought after.

As you start your journey into the world of Wall Street, assume nothing, question everything, and open your eyes to all possible opportunities. Frankly, this advice will help you succeed on Wall Street or anywhere else.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How can more women break into Wall Street?

3 reasons why men run Wall Street by Shiza Shahid, co-founder and ambassador of Malala Fund.

Wall Street: an option or obstacle for young women? by Hope Newsome, Chief Compliance Officer at The Newport Group.

How more women can dominate Wall Street by Barbara Byrne, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking at Barclays.