How attending an all-girls school helped prepare the CEO of Nasdaq for a career on Wall Street

Adena Friedman, president and chief executive officer of Nasdaq Inc
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Getting an education isn't the only benefit to attending school — it also provides the opportunity to meet new people, build upon key social skills and learn valuable lessons for later in life.

And that's exactly what the first female CEO of a major U.S. stock exchange operator learned when she attended an all-girls school, before starting a career on Wall Street.

"I actually do think it made a difference," Adena Friedman, Nasdaq CEO and president told CNBC, when asked about whether going to a same-sex school had an effect on her career in a male-dominated industry.

Speaking on an episode of "Life Hacks Live," the Nasdaq executive explained how she attended an all-girls school for 10 years, and how it helped her build her confidence and prepare for college.

"While I had a brother at home, I was able to go to a place where I could feel like I could ask any question I wanted," said Friedman, on the sidelines of Slush 2017, a start-up and tech event held in Helsinki, Finland, last week.

"I could feel that it was OK to be smart, and that I really loved math and science, and so I was able to really propel myself into those fields and not really have any of those sort of social pressures that sometimes co-ed environments can create. So I really actually loved being in an all-girls school."

Traffic flows down Broadway past the Nasdaq market site in Times Square October 17, 2002, in New York City.
Stephen Chernin | Getty Images News | Getty Images

When Friedman attended college, it was the first time she'd entered a co-ed environment, and she noticed that the women in her class didn't ask as many questions as their male counterparts.

"But I always asked a lot of questions — so I do think it (attending an all-girls school) did help me create a sense of confidence and realizing that I could be as strong and as smart as anyone else in the room."

Pressure to perform

In January, Friedman assumed the position of Nasdaq CEO, making her the first female boss of a major U.S. stock exchange operator — more than two decades after she joined the company, in 1993.

When asked whether the title of being the first female stock exchange CEO put pressure on Friedman to succeed, the executive said she didn't feel under any additional strain. She did note, however, that being the face and leader of a major company tends to add some level of pressure onto any boss — especially if they want to do their best for those invested in the business.

"Well, I think every CEO today has a lot of pressure on them to make sure they're performing for their shareholders," Friedman said, adding that the key to the role was to make sure "you stay true to who you are and what the mission is for the company."

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As the major U.S. stock exchange, the mission at Nasdaq is aimed at serving the capital markets and clients of the company successfully, with the use of advanced technology, reliable service, great oversight and integrity.

"So as long as we are able to do that and continue to provide growth to our business and growth to our shareholders, in the process of continuing to expand our role in the capital markets, I feel confident that I will continue to be here as a CEO leading this organization."

"I don't feel any extra pressure, honestly, as a female CEO – I think that you should just look at it as just making sure that I'm performing properly for the shareholders and for the clients," she said.

"I'm hoping that I can achieve the sense of being a really great leader and the fact that I happen to be a woman is just part of that equation, but it isn't the defining part of it."

Life Hacks Live is a series produced by CNBC International for Facebook, where tomorrow's leaders get to ask some of the world's biggest influencers for advice. You can watch the full interview here.