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Breaking Barriers ⛓️ (Part 1): Inspiring Stories of Women Leaders in Finance


In this blog series, "Breaking Barriers: Inspiring Stories of Women Leaders in Finance," we aim to showcase the remarkable journeys of women who have defied expectations and achieved extraordinary success in the finance industry. In this first instalment, we are thrilled to share the inspiring stories of Adena Friedman and Mellody Hobson, two trailblazing women who have risen to the top of the finance world despite facing numerous challenges along the way.

Adena Friedman

Unconventional Path to Success:

Adena Friedman's journey to becoming the President and CEO of Nasdaq, Inc., the world's largest exchange, is a testament to her determination and resilience. While she didn't have a traditional finance background, studying political science at Williams College and earning an MBA from Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management, she honed her skills as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.

Breaking Through Barriers:

Adena Friedman's journey with Nasdaq began in 1993 as an intern, driven by a strong determination to learn and make a difference. Her exceptional talent and relentless work ethic quickly earned her recognition and opportunities for growth within the company. With unwavering dedication and expertise, Friedman steadily climbed the corporate ladder, ultimately becoming the President and Chief Operating Officer of Nasdaq in 2016. This significant achievement not only showcased her exceptional capabilities but also positioned her as a trailblazer in the industry. However, Friedman's journey didn't stop there. In the following year, she shattered another glass ceiling by becoming the CEO of Nasdaq, making history as the first woman to lead a global exchange. Her appointment was a powerful symbol of the importance of diversity and inclusion in leadership roles.

Under Friedman's visionary leadership, Nasdaq experienced remarkable growth and expansion. She introduced strategic initiatives and fostered innovation, propelling the company forward and solidifying its position as a global financial powerhouse. Nasdaq's market share flourished, and ground-breaking products and services were introduced, transforming the industry. Friedman's commitment to diversity and inclusion was evident in her efforts to create an inclusive and equitable workplace at Nasdaq. She championed initiatives that provided opportunities for underrepresented groups and ensured diverse voices were valued within the organization. Beyond Nasdaq, Friedman's influence extended to various platforms where she advocated for diversity, financial literacy, and embracing change in the finance landscape. Her expertise and thought leadership have made her a sought-after speaker, inspiring countless individuals in their aspirations to break barriers and excel in finance.

Rising to the Top:

Friedman's achievements as CEO of Nasdaq include driving the company's modernization efforts, expanding accessibility for investors, and advocating for diversity and inclusion in the finance industry. She has been recognized as one of the most powerful women in the world by Fortune magazine and serves on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Mellody Hobson

Unconventional Path to Success:

Mellody Hobson's inspiring journey from a non-finance background to becoming the co-CEO of Ariel Investments showcases her tenacity and determination. As a prominent businesswoman, investor, and philanthropist, she has made a significant impact in the finance industry. Despite her mother working as a nurse, Hobson pursued her passion for economics, graduating from Princeton University.

Breaking Through Barriers:

Mellody Hobson's journey at Ariel Investments started in 1991 as an intern, and her exceptional abilities propelled her to remarkable heights within the company. In 2000, she became the firm's president, a testament to her outstanding leadership and contributions. In 2019, Hobson's achievements and expertise led to her appointment as co-CEO. Hobson's commitment to diversity and inclusion is a central aspect of her professional endeavours. She actively participates in various boards and organizations, advocating for financial literacy and empowering young individuals. Notably, she serves as a board member for several Fortune 500 companies, including Starbucks, JPMorgan Chase, and Estée Lauder. Through her involvement, Hobson leverages her influence to drive positive change and promote inclusivity within the finance industry.

Beyond her corporate roles, Hobson is a passionate advocate for financial literacy. She recognizes the importance of equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the complex world of finance. Through her work, she aims to empower individuals to achieve financial security and make informed decisions for themselves and their families. Hobson's dedication to financial literacy extends to her authorship of the book "Getting There: Achieving Financial Security for You and Your Family," which provides valuable insights and guidance. Additionally, Hobson's commitment to empowering young individuals is exemplified through her involvement with After School Matters, a non-profit organization she co-founded. After School Matters offers after-school programs to Chicago youth, providing them with opportunities to explore their interests, develop skills, and gain valuable experiences. Hobson's contribution to this initiative showcases her dedication to creating pathways for young individuals to thrive and succeed.

Rising to the Top:

Hobson's work has garnered recognition worldwide. She has been honoured as one of the most powerful women in the world by Fortune magazine, one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, and a recipient of the prestigious Horatio Alger Award. Through her accomplishments and dedication, she has become a role model for women and minorities, demonstrating that success knows no boundaries.


The stories of Adena Friedman and Mellody Hobson serve as powerful examples of women who have broken through barriers and achieved remarkable success in the finance industry. Their journeys inspire us to challenge norms, pursue our passions, and believe in our potential. At Inspire Her Finance, we celebrate and support the achievements of women in finance, fostering a community where aspiring leaders can find the motivation and resources to excel. Together, we can continue breaking barriers and creating a more inclusive and empowering future for all. Friedman didn't have a traditional finance background, and Hobson is a black woman in a male-dominated industry. Friedman's non-traditional trajectory and Hobson's pioneering role as a black woman in a predominantly male-dominated industry further emphasize the exceptional accomplishments and profound impact of their respective journeys.

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