It’s about so much more than Wall Street.
She appeared early one March morning, standing resolutely opposite one of Wall Street’s most recognizable — and unabashedly male — icons.
Yes, we’re talking about the Fearless Girl, the 250-pound, 4-foot tall bronze statue of a young, ponytailed girl that now stands opposite Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull. Installed by financial services firm State Street Global Advisors, the sculpture was erected to advocate for more women on corporate boards.
The Fearless Girl has since inspired women across the globe, myself included, and she appeared at a time when we all needed inspiration.
It dovetailed nicely with The International Women’s Strike and A Day Without A Woman, both planned specifically to take place on International Women’s Day. It came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. And let’s be frank: Regardless of your political inclinations, 2016 wasn’t the easiest time to be a woman.
Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Fearless Girl, originally slated to be removed this week, will stay up for at least another year.
In just a few weeks, the Fearless Girl has sparked a mostly healthy debate, a dialogue surrounding women’s role in not just the financial services industry, but the workplace in general. She’s inspired women around the globe, and served as a real-life superhero for some little girls, as well.
She’s had a good run, apart from a few immature (and dare we say, unevolved?) men who have decided to pose with the girl in compromising positions.
But occurrences like these further confirm her purpose. This is why we need feminism. This is why we need gender equality in the workplace. This is why we need to continue the conversation and why art that sparks important conversations is so necessary.
Consider this. Women make 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, and they lose an average of 4 percent of their lifetime earnings with the birth of each child. Women hold only 18.8 percent of board seats of the Fortune 500 companies surveyed by the Gender Diversity Index.
Recently, a colleague shared with me an article from Green Money Journal that contained some pretty sobering facts.
“[T]he 2016 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap revealed that it would take 170 years before we reach gender parity in the global workplace, and in financial services it could be significantly longer,” writes Kathleen McQuiggan, Senior Vice President of Global Women’s Strategies and Pax World and Managing Director at Pax Ellevate Management, LLC.
“In fact, at the current pace of progress, women won’t even reach 30 percent of executive committee members in financial services companies until 2048. That’s appalling.”
One hundred and seventy years. That’s how long it will take for us to reach equality in the workplace? And even longer for the financial services industry? This is why the Fearless Girl — and all that she represents — is so important. In order to fix the massive gender disparity, we need to start talking about it. We need to keep talking about it.
Sure, some have argued that the Fearless Girl isn’t a symbol of real feminism: She was erected by an investment firm, a field where women are grossly underrepresented! She’s riding the coattails of International Women’s Day! She’s leaning in, for God’s sake! To be fair, only 17 percent of top executives at State Street Global Advisors, the bank that installed Fearless Girl, are women.
These are all good points. But no movement is perfect, no grand gesture without its shortcomings. Instead of criticizing the Fearless Girl, why not appreciate the ripple effect she’s created? The powerful message she embodies? The movement she has supported? Despite who paid for her, her stance, or the marketing impetus behind her, she has sparked an incredibly important and timely international conversation.
We need to discuss these issues, such as gender equality in the workplace, the lack of women in the C-Suite, the gender pay gap, and the number of women who have experienced sexual harassment at work. We need to discuss why women are still so woefully underrepresented in fields like STEM, tech, and financial services.
And if it takes a bronze statue of a little girl to do that, then so be it.