Joanne Pedone – Nasdaq
One aspect of law still surprises Joanne Pedone, whose legal career has spanned over a decade. When the associate vice president, principal associate general counsel for Nasdaq joins calls or attends meetings among the legal community, she’s often—if not always—the only woman present.
Pursuing diversity and gender equality at the highest levels of the legal profession and in businesses has been a driving force in her life—even before she was an undergraduate student working on her degree in philosophy, law and society at DeSales University.
Throughout her career at various firms in Washington, D.C. and New York, her passion for supporting, guiding and increasing the number of female lawyers only intensified after her daughter was born in 2020. At that point, she’d already been at Nasdaq for two years and was excited about opportunities to help mentor and advance female lawyers and women in leadership positions—within the company and beyond.
In 2022, Nasdaq launched a pilot program designed to accelerate female leaders’ career journeys across the company. As a proud member, she participates in the monthly meetings where Nasdaq’s female leaders watch and discuss career-oriented skill building videos on a variety of topics. The subject matter may cover handling negotiations or how to become a better leader.
No matter the subject, it is topical, timely and applies to the attendees’ careers, goals and lives, she explains.
“I want any disparities arising from gender to be eradicated—to be a complete non-issue—by the time my daughter enters the workforce,” Pedone tells Vanguard. “That’s why I jump at every chance, at Nasdaq and beyond, to be involved in strengthening diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives and programs—even creating my own if the opportunity arises.”
A clinic in DE&I and giving back
This is how she spearheaded a nascent relationship between The National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms and Nasdaq’s Pro-Bono Committee. Since Nasdaq is a global technology company that operates the most active stock trading venue in the nation —and was the first ever electronic stock market in the world—its legal team has some unique insights and perspectives.
A long-time supporter of NAMWOLF and a member of Nasdaq’s Pro Bono Committee, Pedone wanted to find a way for the two to work together beyond simply conversing with one another. In fall 2022, she pinpointed a perfect chance for collaboration: the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Small Business Brief Advice Legal Clinic.
Due to her efforts as well as those of a female colleague, on Giving Tuesday last November, a group of attorneys from both Nasdaq and NAMWOLF member firms, including Pedone, volunteered their time and expertise at the virtual clinic. The only goal for the day was to come together to assist existing and aspiring local small businesses.
The attorneys answered legal questions and helped the business owners—and future owners—navigate legal topics ranging from entity formation, intellectual property and commercial leasing to contract reviews and disputes as well as corporate and employment law.
“This clinic was a huge stride toward introducing NAMWOLF member firms to Nasdaq’s Pro Bono Committee,” Pedone says. “NAMWOLF does some amazing work in promoting minorities and women in the legal field, and I’m proud that we’re working together and hope to continue developing the relationship.”
Diversifying rules, litigation and boards
At Nasdaq, Pedone’s role in the Office of General Counsel focuses on all aspects of litigation and investigations for the company and its various subsidiaries. This means she’s not typically the one handling rule filings.
However, in 2020, she returned from maternity leave to find that the legal and regulatory team had started drafting Nasdaq’s Board Diversity Rule, which requires the more than 3,300 companies listed on Nasdaq’s U.S. Exchange to publicly disclose board-level diversity statistics annually using a standardized template. They need to have, or explain why they do not have, diverse directors.
“A robust draft of the rule was already in place, but I raised my hand and offered to participate,” Pedone says.
She helped get the draft rule finalized and filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Once a rule filing is published, anyone from civilians to CEOs can file a comment letter on it. She and others on the legal and regulatory team helped Nasdaq respond to these comments and even amended the rule.
“This is one of the most important and impactful projects I’ve ever worked on,” Pedone says. “I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to participate.”
She adds she’s proud to be working for a company that not only supported such a rule but is dedicated to hiring and advancing women leaders.
As part of the Nasdaq Center for Board Excellence’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Insights Council—composed of Nasdaq and non-Nasdaq leadership—Pedone helped write “Best Practices for Creating a More Diverse Board.” The November 2022 article outlines five steps: Get buy-in from the board, onboard for success, create space for new perspectives, find opportunities for diverse board members to benefit other areas of the company and build a pipeline for diverse board talent.
She and several others recently released a follow-up article in March 2023: “Inviting Diverse Voices to Speak Up in the Boardroom.” This outlines six ways board members can combat groupthink and feel free to share their thoughts. Some of the tips are to seat newer members next to the CEO and CFO, to moderate conversations and to provide informal opportunities for the board to mingle and network with one another.
“We can’t just say we want change,” Pedone says. “We must provide tangible, actionable ways of achieving it.”
Riding toward success
Pedone says following your passion can often lead to unexpected places, but having a driving force and a goal in mind is also what makes day-to-day work worthwhile.
“With everything I do, I want to change the workforce so that the world becomes a more inclusive, supportive place not just for my daughter but the many women trying to reach the pinnacles of their careers, especially in the world of law,” she says.
She’s the first to admit that, even with support, achieving one’s goal can be a complicated, challenging task.
For nearly five years now, she’s been balancing her work at Nasdaq with being a mother of two and her life-long passion of being a competitive equestrian. Her particular interest is in dressage, a form of competitive riding often described as horse ballet—as well as an art that some pursue solely for the sake of mastery.
She balances it all through her hyper-organization and prioritizing her time fiercely.
“Dressage, like a career in law, requires the utmost passion, dedication and preparation,” Pedone says. “I want to lead by example and show my children and those with whom I work or mentor that, when in pursuit of your dreams, you must fire on all cylinders—and it can be absolutely exhilarating.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Spring III 2023 Edition here.
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