In light of the recent Women’s March in DC and women marching all over the world (alongside men and children), it appears that there is a new awakening to the powerful voice of women. We, at GRAND, were delighted to see the unvailing of the Fearless Girl statue yesterday in the heart of America’s financial district.
According to Shirley Leung a Boston Globe columnist, “Perhaps the turning point of gender equality in corporate America will come down to the simple but powerful act of commissioning a piece of art.”
The “Fearless Girl” statue of a little girl, with hands on her hips, standing up to the iconic bronze “Charging Bull” in Lower Manhattan, has gone viral in a way that no study on the importance of women in the boardroom ever has.
Her mere presence raises these questions: Why haven’t women been on equal footing? Why shouldn’t they be? Why does the bull, a decidedly masculine symbol, get to represent America’s economic strength?
The statue was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, the investment arm of Boston-based State Street Corp. with $2.5 trillion in funds, to help bring attention to the lack of women on corporate boards. Its temporary installation coincides with SSGA’s new campaign to push the 3,500 public companies in which it invests to add more female directors. If you can believe it, quite a few have all-male boards. (Studies show that firms with diverse boards are more successful, producing higher stock prices, returns on equity, and valuations.)
But while State Street may be shaking up Wall Street, its efforts were hardly noticed on Main Street. Until now. The statue puts gender diversity issues front and center, instead of buried in arcane procedures.
“It makes this commitment visible in a way that proxy voting guidelines don’t,” said Toni Wolfman, who through the Boston Club has pushed for women on boards for two decades.
And that’s exactly what the women of State Street hoped would happen. They knew changing minds would take more than a different investment philosophy or a product launch.
They began kicking around the idea for a statue a year ago, and not just any statue anywhere, but one planted at ground zero of American capitalism. And they wanted a little girl because she represents hope for the future.
Work on the statue began in December, with the goal of putting it up by Wednesday, International Women’s Day.
They found a female artist, Kristen Visbal, who specializes in bronze sculptures and who would end up pulling some all-nighters to finish in time.
Visbal modeled the statue after a 7-year-old girl. The Delaware sculptor wanted to create someone everyone could relate to — a girl in a simple dress, wearing high-tops, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail.