If you happen to walk down Broadway in New York today and for the rest of the week, you’ll find an unfamiliar sight — a bronze statue of a little girl placed just 20 feet across from Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull.
The sight of the two sculptures is a study in contrast. The Charging Bull on the one hand exudes aggressiveness, which is just as well considering that it was installed there to symbolize New York’s resiliency in the face of the stock market crash back in 1987. The newly-installed little girl statue, while more diminutive in appearance, stands in defiance — hands on hips, chest out, chin high, and pony tail out.
The bronze statue, entitled “Fearless Girl,” was installed in New York City’s financial district on Tuesday morning, a day ahead of International Women’s Day.
CNN Money reports that McCann New York advertising agency and its client, Boston-based State Street Global Advisors, considered the world’s third-largest asset manager, installed the bronze statue in front of the Charging Bull to call on 3,500 companies to increase the number of women on their corporate boards.
“Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action,” Ron O’Hanley, president and CEO of SSGA said in a statement. “We believe good corporate governance is a function of strong, effective, and independent board leadership.”
“A key contributor to effective independent board leadership is diversity of thought, which requires directors with different skills, backgrounds, and expertise,” he added.
As an index fund giant, State Street Global Advisors has about $30 trillion worth of market capital and has managed just under $2.5 trillion in assets by the end of last year.
Using the “The Fearless Girl” bronze statue as a symbol of its initiative for gender diversity, the SSGA issued in a statement that they will vote against corporations that fail to address diversity in their ranks.
Currently, women hold fewer than 20-percent corporate board seats in S&P 500 companies, according to Catalyst.
Also, one-fourth of Russell 300 companies have no women on their boards.
SSGA’s initiative to improve gender diversity in the company boards it invests in is founded on practical data, as a 2015 study conducted by the company itself shows that companies with strong female leadership perform better than their male-dominated counterparts.
“As a large index provider, we have to be invested in these companies,” said Lori Heinel, State Street’s deputy global chief investment officer. “The best thing we can do is be more activist in those companies to improve their performance as a long-term provider of capital.”
In an interview, Heinel pointed out the “wide body of evidence” proving that companies with more diversity in their ranks produce better results, specifically on return on equity, average growth, price/book value multiples, not to mention in terms of offering higher profit margins and better priced mergers, as reported by The Washington Post.
Kristen Visbal, the artist who sculpted “The Fearless Girl,” told The Wall Street Journal she initially thought of making the girl in such a way that it charges against the Charging Bull, but later realized that the girl would be better off standing up to the bull in defiance. The sculpture is an amalgam of the daughter of a friend and a nine-year-old Latina girl, Visbal said.
“Wall Street is a traditionally male environment and it says, ‘Hey, we’re here,'” she said. “To me, it says a woman can be delicate and petite, but strong.”
Wall Street’s Charging Bull was made by Maestro Arturo Di Modica, who is considered one of the greatest living sculptors of the modern era. His iconic Charging Bull achieved international fame since he installed the sculpture in front of the New York Stock Exchange even while facing the risk of incurring city permit violations. Even today, the Charging Bull is considered a Wall Street icon that symbolizes the strength of New York’s financial district.
State Street told Business Insider they’re expecting “The Fearless Girl” to remain in front of the Charging Bull for a month.
[Featured Image by Mary Altaffer/AP Images]