A Bunch of Bull? Wall Street Firm Behind ‘Fearless Girl’ Settles Gender Discrimination Suit
The statue erected across from the Charging Bull seems more like a cynical advertising ploy than ever.
The financial firm behind Fearless Girl, the bronze statue controversially installed on Wall Street opposite Charging Bull as a symbol supporting gender equality, has paid $5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that 300 women and 15 black employees were paid less than their white and male peers.
According to a US federal audit, State Street Corporation, the parent company of financial firm State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), which orchestrated the Fearless Girl campaign with advertising corporation McCann, discriminated against senior-level employees. State Street denies wrongdoing, Bloomberg has reported.
Fearless Girl was an immediate viral success on social media, riding the wave of feminist sentiment from the post-inauguration Women’s March when it was installed on March 8, International Women’s Day. But the motives behind the statue soon came into question.
The sculpture was initially accompanied by a plaque that read “KNOW THE POWER OF WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP/SHE MAKES A DIFFERENCE.” The “SHE” in question, however, turned out not to be the diminutive girl facing down the big bad bull, but the SSGA Gender Diversity Index, an exchange-traded fund that bears the ticker symbol “SHE.” The plaque was later removed following backlash alleging that Fearless Girl was a calculated ad, not the inspirational artwork it had first seemed.
The latest revelations about SSGA lend further ammunition to those who would decry Fearless Girl, which was designed by artist Kristen Visbal, as an opportunistic publicity stunt that capitalized on the iconic nature of Charging Bull, itself originally a guerrilla art installation by Arturo Di Modica. (He has accused Fearless Girl of infringing upon his copyright.)
“The Fearless Girl project was always a SCAM allowing a TRILLION dollar financial firm to get many MILLIONS of dollars of FREE publicity on PUBLIC land,” wrote Arthur Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association, and a champion of the Charging Bull statue, in an email to artnet News. He called SSGA a “hypocrite company” that “abuses Bowling Green and Arturo Di Modica.” (According to the Guardian, the Fearless Girl promotion brought SSGA an estimated $7.4 million in free marketing.)
Say what you will about Fearless Girl and its authenticity—or lack thereof—but the statue’s message stems from a very real issue. The systemic issues allegedly faced by women at the very company that sought to highlight women’s rights with the sculpture are in themselves evidence that Fearless Girl has something important to say. It is unfortunate that State Street’s actions speak louder than words.
Upon the statue’s initial installation, Hyperallergic found that McCann’s leadership was only 27 percent female, and SSGA’s was even lower, at 18 percent.
The news of the settlement came on the eve of the season premiere of the CW’s Supergirl, featuring an apparent homage to the statue. According to comicbook/dc, the show’s title character was honored for saving the city with a statue, titled Girl of Steel, of her springing into action, sporting a similarly brave and defiant look as Fearless Girl.
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