Our senior management team benefits from a strong slate of women that span our trading, clearing, data and legal teams. We took a minute to speak with them and get their advice.

Stacey Cunningham

President, NYSE Group

Elizabeth King

Chief Regulatory Officer, Intercontinental Exchange & General Counsel, NYSE Group

Lynn Martin

President & COO, ICE Data Serivces

Hester Serafini

President & COO, ICE Clear U.S.

Q: What do you see as the biggest barriers to women growing into leadership roles? What can women do to overcome those barriers?

SC: While it isn’t true for all women, many women tend to limit themselves. They may dismiss an opportunity if they don’t view themselves as an obvious choice for a role. Very often the best candidate isn’t always the most obvious candidate. A woman that is very confident in what she already does shouldn’t hesitate to extend that confidence to new things where she has less direct experience.

EK: In general, I think people are more forgiving of mistakes made by men than mistakes made by women. Or, said another way, women are held to higher standards. In addition to their workplace responsibilities, women’s family responsibilities – real and perceived – can add another, often unspoken barrier to their advancement. To begin addressing those barriers, it’s important for women to make decisions about their own priorities and find resources to help with the tasks that are lower on the priority list.

LM: In my mind, the biggest barrier women face is in viewing each other as competition rather than as an asset. Women who support each other in the workforce open up doors for one another and for the next generation. Finding a female mentor or group of supporters is one way to start knocking down that barrier.

HS: My thoughts on this question apply to both women and men. I think some people have the perception that it’s up to their manager to help progress their careers, and we could all benefit from being more proactive in that area. It’s our own responsibility to find managers who are open-minded and give women the same chances as men, and it’s up to us to find managers that trust and value our skills. No one gets ahead working for the wrong manager, so we have to constantly evaluate our career paths and move when necessary.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?

SC: I’d like to believe the next generation will continue to have an increased amount of choices available to them. As an increasing amount of leadership opportunities become available to women, the societal pressure to make more traditional choices will be a challenge for many women. They will need to be comfortable prioritizing the decision right for them, regardless of what it is.

EK: I think each individual woman will have her own challenges, and she’ll have to figure out how they fit into her life and how she responds to them. Each woman will need to determine what work she finds fulfilling, what kind of family life she wants to have, how she fits into the larger community where she lives, etc. While I think there are fewer societal constraints on the generation of women behind me in terms of their career choices, especially as family responsibilities become shared more equally between men and women, I think women will continue to be challenged to get recognition in traditionally male professional fields.

LM: With more women with the ambition of ascending to senior level positions, the ability to balance work and life priorities is top of mind. Support systems, such as affordable childcare, are going to be key to solving those challenges.

HS: I think circumstances get better for every generation of women as the prior generation pushes the limits beyond where they were before. For both women and men, the pace at which the business environment changes will continue to be a challenge. The need to be flexible, very aware of trends and the ability to reinvent yourself many times throughout your career are key.

Q: What advice would you give young businesswomen just getting started in their careers?

SC: Our skills are more valuable than our experience and the even better news is they’re transferable. Problem solving, strong communication, and teamwork can contribute to success in virtually any role. Focus on honing skills and then don’t be afraid to find new places to apply them.

EK: Don’t be afraid to seek a promotion or take on a role that you’re not sure you have the experience to fulfill. As long as you’re willing to work hard, learn everything you can and do your absolute best, you’ll be able to succeed. It would be a mistake not to take the opportunity.

LM: Remember these three things throughout your career: hard work always wins the day so be patient, don’t ever be intimidated by someone just because of their seniority, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Those are the keys to success.

HS: Believe in yourself; don’t ever give up on your ambitions, even if people doubt your ability to achieve them. Women can do anything men can do. I personally think that success for everyone is extremely linked to how we deal with failures. When something goes wrong, learn from it, ask yourself what you could have done better, take ownership for what you did wrong or could have done better, and then move on. What does not kill you makes you better at what you do.