To Mark International Women’s Day, ‘Fearless Girl’ on Wall Street Has Been Surrounded by Frightening Shards of Broken Glass

The sculpture looks like it's under attack.

State Street Global Advisors has revisited its famous Fearless Girl artwork, surrounding the statue by Kristen Visbal with shards of broken glass to symbolize the shattering of the glass ceiling. Photo courtesy of State Street Global Advisors.

Four years after Fearless Girl first faced off against Wall Street’s Charging Bull, the finance company behind the marketing stunt-turned beloved public artwork has installed shards of glass around the diminutive bronze sculpture in a misguided tribute to women who have broken the metaphorical “glass ceiling” by ascending to top leadership positions in business and politics.

The statue, designed by artist Kristen Visbal, became wildly popular after it was installed in 2017 for an International Women’s Day ad campaign. Bowing to public demand, the city quickly extended the planned week-long installation for a yearFearless Girl has since become a permanent installation outside the New York Stock Exchange.

But you probably shouldn’t get too close to it today, since it’s surrounded by jagged panes of glass strewn across the cobblestone street in a display that looks more like a public safety hazard than an art installation.

State Street Global Advisors, which partnered with advertising firm McCann New York on the original Fearless Girl campaign, is billing the new stunt as a celebration of the progress toward gender equity that has been made in the business world since the statue was first created.

“We have installed a broken glass ceiling surrounding Fearless Girl as a symbol of the new ground women are breaking every day,” State Street president and CEO Cyrus Taraporevala wrote in a letter, noting that “1,486 companies we had identified with previously all-male boards have responded to our call by adding at least one female director.”

“Today’s broken glass ceilings are tomorrow’s stepping stones,” reads a plaque accompanying the artwork.

Surrounded by a sea of glass, Fearless Girl looks trapped, unable to move forward lest she cut herself. Surely there is a better way to welcome women into leadership roles than by reminding them that the remnants of the barriers they’ve overcome still might hurt them if they don’t watch their step.

More successfully, State Street photographed the statue wearing one of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s trademark lace collars in honor of the Supreme Court justice’s death in September. Fearless Girl was also outfitted with a protective face mask last March, not long after the onset of the pandemic.

Originally, Fearless Girl was installed with a plaque advertising State Street’s Gender Diversity Index SHE, an exchange-traded fund investing in women-led companies.

State Street, however, was not without its own gender-equity issues. Critics of the statue pointed out that only 18 percent of leadership positions at State Street were held by women. And later that year, its parent company, State Street Corporation, paid $5 million to settle a lawsuit from women and Black employees alleging they were underpaid.

Taraporevala’s letter cites the company’s own progress, noting that, among other steps toward gender equity, the company is hiring its first female global chief investment officer next month. Let’s just hope they sweep away the shards of glass before she shows up for work.

See more photos of the installation below.

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