On the International Women’s Day 2017, State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) installed the statue of a Fearless Girl opposite the Charging Bull of Wall Street. Our colleague Ellen Comberg had the opportunity to talk to Lori M. Heinel, Deputy Global Chief Investment Officer for SSGA.
This gave us the exciting opportunity to get some premiere insight into the thought process and message behind the initiative, and of course you can read about it right here on our blog!
The Fearless Girl raised Awareness all over the World
On March 8, 2017, pedestrians in New York were surprised when they first saw it. Right in the middle of Bowling Green Park in the city’s financial district, opposite the Charging Bull there was the statue of a fearless little girl staring down the fierce animal. This was no coincidence; since March 8 is the date we celebrate as the International Women’s Day. The statue was installed by the Boston based State Street Global Advisors, the world`s third largest asset management firm. Their aim is to send a message about gender diversity at the workplace as well as to challenge all companies (including SSGA themselves) to do better in that regard.
The initiative was a huge success, as it created awareness all over the world and was covered by many of the biggest newspapers and news channels. “Had we hoped for a positive, strong reaction? Yes,” Lori told us. “But had we anticipated this huge worldwide applause? No.” After the statue was installed, Lori had to rearrange her schedule and got on a plane to New York right away. She told us, that she was basically in interviews and conversations for 48 hours straight. Not only with the news media, but with people from all walks of life! This goes to show, that gender equality is still a very important topic.
Gender Equality: Still an Emotional Topic
At SSGA, people are humbled by the fact that there was such an overwhelming global reaction. They received responses from women, as well as men from the UK, Germany, Brazil, Australia, Canada and many more countries. The Fearless Girl became an important topic for people of all races and regions, which goes to show that it tells a universal truth that goes beyond the reasoning behind a simple marketing campaign; that women need to be “respected for their diversity of thought and what they bring to leadership.” In that regard, the initiative succeeded in bringing attention to the subject in a meaningful and tasteful manner.
“The success of the Fearless Girl is due to the fact that it is a simple, yet powerful image that evokes a lot of emotion.” – Lori Heinel
It is also a very inclusive symbol. The girl is very courageous and strong, but at the same time she isn’t threatening. Her youth tells us a hopeful, forward-looking message including an optimistic outlook towards the future that everyone can easily identify with and wants to be a part of.
The Business Case for Gender Diversity
However, advocating gender diversity is more than a “feel good” topic, as Lori put it. But, moreover, it is even “more than a moral imperative”. She told us that there is a wealth of research data that tells us why diversity is a very important business factor as well. Studies show that companies with more gender equity in leadership just perform better. More women in leadership roles translate to less debt and faster rebounds after crises.
“It is important to link the business case to the moral imperative.” – Lori Heinel
The call for more women in leadership roles doesn’t only go out to other companies. SSGA themselves, though above the industry standard, currently have a board made up by 27 percent of women. Lori told us that, of course, they want to do better not only on the management level, but on all levels of the company. This is why they wanted to point out the issue in public, even though there was a risk of facing criticism for not reaching satisfying numbers when it comes to gender parity. Internally, though, many of SSGA’s employees feel a “sense of pride” because of the courage the initiative took. It took courage to address this issue while simultaneously exposing the fact that SSGA themselves are not perfect in that regard.
Looking Towards a Hopeful Future
Only time will tell how fast companies and society are able to move towards more gender equality. But the Fearless Girl was an important sign that the topic is still very important indeed. Therefore, New York mayor Bill de Blasio announced on March 27 that the statue – even though initially only planned a temporary campaign for a few weeks – will remain in Bowling Green Park until International Women’s Day 2018. And who knows? Maybe it will stare down the Charging Bull even longer. Because, in case you didn’t know, the bull itself was once an act of guerrilla art when it was installed in 1987…
At any rate, we hope you enjoyed reading about the story behind the Fearless Girl of Wall Street! And we dearly thank Lori and SSGA for the opportunity to talk to them. Now we look forward to seeing you at Global Female leaders 2017 – and do not miss the chance to meet and chat with our advisory board member Deb Lorenzen, Head of Strategy and Data Governance at SSGA, about this great topic!