The girl and the bull

‘Fearless Girl’ is an initiative by State Street Global Advisors to call attention to the lack of gender diversity on corporate boards and the pay gap between men and women working in financial services


A cameraman films a statue of a girl facing the Wall Street Bull in New York. Photo: Reuters
A cameraman films a statue of a girl facing the Wall Street Bull in New York. Photo: Reuters

The girl whose statue appeared—staring down the iconic bronze Charging Bull on Wall Street—in time for International Women’s Day, has her hands on her hips, and a swaying ponytail. While these have already been much adored, I must also applaud her comfortable lace-up shoes.

The 11ft-tall bull was a guerrilla act by the Italian-American sculptor Arturo Di Modica, who dropped it in the middle of the night in front of the New York Stock Exchange as a symbol of America’s survival following the 1987 stock market crash. And the city gave permission for the bull to remain.

The statue of the girl is not an artist’s flourish. Titled Fearless Girl, it is an initiative by the Boston-based investment giant State Street Global Advisors, which hired McCann New York to call attention to the lack of gender diversity on corporate boards and the pay gap between men and women working in financial services. But this fact doesn’t make the girl-with-the-good-shoes any less important.

Because of her dazzling popularity as a selfie partner, within 48 hours of her arrival, New York City Hall extended its permission from its planned one-week stay to 30 days. Now, a Change.org petition is under way to make it permanent. On Women’s Day, the girl and the bull were also made to wear pink “pussyhats” for photo ops as part of the #pussyhatglobal campaign (this part I wholly disapprove of sartorially—both for the girl and the bull).

This is clever thinking by McCann because conversations around women’s empowerment also make good business sense. Over the last two years, Tanishq, Axis Bank, Ariel and Benetton, amongst others, have flooded the Indian ad space with communication that speaks to women and for women.

State Street has placed a plaque at the girl’s feet that says: “Know the power of women in leadership. She makes a difference.” Its spokespeople have pointed out that one out of four of the companies that make up the Russell 3000 Index, which benchmarks the US stock market, still have no female representation on their boards and that State Street itself has three women on an 11-member board.

Shaili Chopra, a former business journalist and the entrepreneur behind the two-year-old multi-tech platform SheThePeople.TV, points me to the Credit Suisse Gender 3000 report which says that the number of women on Indian boards doubled from 5.5% in 2010 to 11.2% in 2015 against the global average of 14.7%. However the same report said diversity at the management level came down. Chopra makes a case for looking beyond numbers. “Tokenism is the most dangerous,” she says. Arundhati Bhattacharya may be the first woman to head the State Bank of India in its over 210-year history, and “while that’s a starting point, we need to have many more role models across finance and other sectors to celebrate in a country with nearly 500 million women,” she says.

An ad agency gave us one more.

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