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Women Rising To The Top: Chitra Ramkrishna, Adena Friedman Take Top Roles In The Exchange Space

There was another historic election this month, this one at the World Federation of Exchanges’ annual meeting in Cartagena, Colombia. The WFE elected the first female chair in its 56-year history.

Chitra Ramkrishna, managing director and CEO of the National Stock Exchange of India, will serve as WFE chairperson for the next two years. She succeeds Juan Pablo Cordoba, CEO of the Bolsa de Valores de Colombia. She is also the first woman to head up an exchange in India, beginning in 2013, and has been a pioneer in helping develop India’s capital markets. Neither is a small feat.

Ramkrishna joins Nandini Sukumar, who is CEO of the WFE, giving the organization the only all-female chair and CEO combination in the industry.

Meanwhile, Adena Friedman was named Nasdaq’s president and CEO, to succeed longtime Nasdaq CEO Bob Greifeld. Starting on January 1, she will be the first US woman to head up a US exchange. Interestingly, neither Ramkrishna nor Friedman focused on gender when asked about it. When I interviewed Ramkrishna at the WFE conference about becoming the first female chair at the organization, she focused on the importance of working with member exchanges and zeroed in on addressing issues such as liquidity risk, digital ledger technology and fixed income market challenges.

Friedman’s response in a recent Bloomberg article to the question of whether she thinks of herself as a feminist was, “I just think of myself as a hard-working person who loves my job.” You can also see Friedman’s talk at our MarketsWiki Education event here.

I would suspect other female exchange executives in the industry, such as Kesara Manchusree, president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, and Bente Landsnes, president and CEO of the Oslo Bors, feel the same. It’s about being given opportunity and doing the job.

It is also worth noting that former exchange executive Dame Clara Furse, who served as CEO of the London Stock Exchange from 2001 to 2009, was picked as the new non-executive chair of HSBC UK, starting on April 1, 2017. Among her mandates is a focus on creating more gender equality at the top of that bank’s operations. The goal there is to create an equal number of women and men among roughly 550 senior executive positions at the bank by 2020.

It is difficult to determine how the numbers of women in C-suite positions will change in the coming years, but these are some positive signs that there is a talent pool that has earned recognition and the opportunity to lead.

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Kharouf is a Chicago-based freelance reporter and editor who was previously CEO and editor-in-chief of John Lothian News.