Little girl with a big message: Bronze statue tells Wall St. 'SHE makes a difference'

A statue of a little girl standing defiant in the path of Wall Street's iconic charging bull appeared in Lower Manhattan early Tuesday morning, as part of an advertising campaign with a broader message.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters
People look at a statue of a girl facing the Wall St. Bull, as part of a campaign by US fund manager State Street to push companies to put women on their boards, in the financial district in New York, March 7, 2017.

This girl is not afraid of anything: not even a charging bull. 

A new statue of a grade school-aged girl, with hands defiantly perched on her hips, appeared early Tuesday morning in front of the iconic Wall St. bronze bull in Lower Manhattan on the eve of International Women’s Day – as if to fearlessly stare down the bull.

The bronze statute, accompanied by a plaque that challenges, “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” is a reminder of the lack of gender diversity on corporate boards and a call for future female leaders in the financial services industry, the installer State Street Global Advisors said on Tuesday. 

“A lot of people talk about gender diversity, but we really felt we had to take it to a broader level," spokeswoman Anne McNally told Reuters.

Despite the progress that women have made in breaking through glass ceilings in the workplace, the firm – an investment management branch of Boston-based State Street Corp. – said one out of four companies listed on the Russell 3000 Index still don’t have even one woman on their corporate boards. 

The statue is part of the company’s larger efforts to raise awareness and bring action to the issue as it releases guidelines for 3,500 companies it invests in on behalf of clients. 

“We believe good corporate governance is a function of strong, effective and independent board leadership," State Street Global Advisors chief executive officer Ron O'Hanley said in a statement. “Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action.”

For artist Kristen Visbal, the roughly 50-inch bronze statue, featuring a girl wearing leggings, high tops, and a simple dress, acts as a powerful symbol of need to action.

“Wall Street is a traditionally male environment and it says ‘hey we’re here’,” she told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “To me it says a woman can be delicate and petite, but strong.”

The statue arrived one day before International Women's Day and a series of protests in the United States as part of “A Day Without A Woman” actions planned by organizers of the historic Women’s Marches on Jan. 21. Inspired by recent “Day Without an Immigrant” protest that took place across the country in February, women across the US are abstaining from work, study, or spending money.

While the statue was put up in the early morning as “guerrilla art,” just like the charging bull once was in 1989 before it was given a permanent home near Broadway, Ms. McNally said the firm had actually discussed it with the city beforehand to ensure the statue could remain at least temporarily. 

"We're actively pursuing that it stays for a month," she told Reuters. "If the city decides that it should stay in perpetuity, we're absolutely on board with that.

This report includes material from Reuters.

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