Kyle Mannisi, Opinions Editor
In March 2017, the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue was erected opposite the famous Wall Street installation of ‘Charging Bull’ on the night before International Women’s Day. The statue was constructed by artist Kristen Visbal, who was formerly known for her commemorative statues of college football coaches.
The statue was commissioned by the State Street Corporation, a financial asset service company whose revenue exceeds $10.2 billion annually and oversees assets that amount to almost $2.5 trillion.
A six-year investigation conducted by the Department of Labor found “statistically significant” discrepancies in how they paid black employees, as well as underpaying more than 300 female employees. They alleged that women in senior leadership positions at the company earned lower base salaries, lower bonuses, and total take-home pay than their male counterparts.
The company is also under scrutiny for only voting in favor of gender-equality pay proposals by shareholders two times in 2017, and employing just five women on its 28-member leadership board.
The State Street Corporation has claimed the purpose of the statue was to “raise awareness… to improve gender diversity in corporate leadership roles”, yet they consistently employ practices that do not meet those standards. The company clearly does not genuinely care about the welfare of gender diversity, despite their shallow attempts to come across as a progressive company.
Women have historically faced challenges when attempting to enter a male-dominated career and still face staunch opposition and discrimination. Erecting a statue that depicts womanhood as a ‘cute, 9-year old girl’ is also problematic, according to economist Sylvia Ann Hewitt. “The choice of portraying the fierce female as someone who is immature, as someone who hasn’t tangled with the world, is a little bit of a travesty,” says Hewitt.
The gender pay gap is central to these issues, wherein women still earn just 80 cents for every dollar that men earn. State Street is accused of preaching “corporate feminism” which has often been criticized for placing the interests and desires of wealthy, educated women before lower class women. Why should the average woman care about wealthy Wall Street executives while everyday women are forced to spend over 13 percent more on personal care items daily and earn 20 percent less on average?
The statue has been granted an 11-month permit to stay from the city of New York, although the fate of the statue is not clear beyond that timeframe.
Of the many issues that plague women in America, it seems that State Street and its Wall Street contemporaries are more of a problem than a solution. While putting women in leadership roles is extremely important, Wall Street is no Hull House, and female-run Wall Street firms do not exploit impoverished people any less than male-run firms do. The symbolism may have had good intentions, but intentions are irrelevant when the very company that claims to advocate on behalf of women exploits them and underpays them.