Taking a Stand for Women on Boards: The Fearless Girl and the Bull
Could a bold and creative act by the Boston-based State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) finally bring gender equity to corporate boards in the United States? When senior female executives at SSGA decided to commission the statue “The Fearless Girl,” their goal was to bring visibility to the lack of women on boards. By placing the statue in front of New York City’s iconic Bull of Wall Street in during the middle of the night prior to International Women’s Day on March 9, 2017, they hoped to spotlight this issue.
Rachael Levy, writing for Business Insider, explains that the statue is part of a new campaign by SSGA to pressure companies to add more women to their boards. Levy reports that—as the third largest asset manager in the world handling $2.5 trillion in funds—SSGA wields a lot of clout and has vowed to vote against boards of companies “that fail to take steps to increase the number of women.”
The SSGA executives note that, despite much industry discussion about this issue for many years, little has changed. Why does gender diversity matter? They add that gender diversity improves company performance, and gender diversity increases shareholder value. In other words, gender diversity is good for business.
Associated Press reporter Stan Choe writes that while woman have been gaining board seats, the progress is very slow. Women in the United States held 15 percent of board seats in 2015, up from 14 percent in 2014. Choe notes that, at this rate, it will take until 2055 to gain parity. He also notes that many companies have no women at all on their boards, and only 4 percent of CEOs are women. Other countries have a better record, with women holding 24 percent of board seats in Europe because of government pressure and targets.
Shirley Leung of the Boston Globe notes that the placement of the Fearless Girl statue raises some important questions:
- Why haven’t women been on equal footing?
- Why shouldn’t they be?
- Why does the Wall Street Bull, a decidedly masculine symbol, represent America’s economic strength?
Leung explains that for the SSGA executives, who commissioned the statue from artist Kristen Visbol, the little girl represents hope for the future and is a symbol of change. The plaque at her feet reads, “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”
I love this symbol of fearlessness. What are your thoughts and reactions?