The introduction of a powerful new symbol to the New York City art scene got the world talking last week about the vitality of feminism in all aspects of life, including business. The statue of a girl was placed across from the iconic Wall Street Bull to symbolize the bravery it takes to fight sexism everyday, and she's still standing tough even as the city got buried under a blizzard Tuesday. The "Fearless Girl" statue is even more powerful in the snow, as a representation of the cultural commitment to feminist advancement that has taken hold in this generation and those to come.
The symbol of the girl's immutability is especially powerful in this rough, late-winter blizzard because women and girls are so often equated with weakness. The girl stood strong throughout the storm, and even though she's obviously just a statue that didn't have any control on where she went, it's still meaningfully feminist to see "Fearless Girl" brave the elements. Only a handful of the hundreds of statues in New York City depict women, and to see an empowered young girl cast in metal is almost unheard of. Thousands are now fighting to make her a permanent fixture on Wall Street, so hopefully people will be able to see here on Wall Street for years to come.
The statue was installed by State Street Global Advisors, as a protest against the lack of women in elite financial industry positions. "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," Ron O'Hanley, president and CEO of SSGA said in a statement last week. "A key contributor to effective independent board leadership is diversity of thought, which requires directors with different skills, backgrounds and expertise."
Plenty of research supports O'Hanley's claim too — diverse groups general come up with more creative and reasonable solutions to problems than groups whose members are too similar to one another. Some detractors point to anecdotal evidence that shows female CEOs are less successful than their male counterparts, such as Marissa Mayer's leadership over Yahoo since 2012. However, there's an important caveat to stories like Mayer's — women are more likely to get a CEO position when the company is already failing. That way, women take more blame, which gets often gets discriminatorily ascribed to other women and reinforces stereotypes about women's business acumen.
The problem is much more extensive than just those leading the companies though. In the financial industry, women are underrepresented at nearly every level, starting with business schools. In 2015, The Economist surveyed top business schools and found that the average cohort is only 34 percent female. Those gaps persist as women enter the working world — according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, 60 percent of financial firms have no women on their board of directors, and 50 percent had no women in their c-suite. "Fearless Girl" has a
Snow isn't stopping the Fearless Girl. pic.twitter.com/rCY2Gyf7Hr— macfixer (@macfixer) March 14, 2017
Not everyone was as welcoming to the new "Fearless Girl" as they should have been, but she's there to acknowledge that the business world needs change. With her in the public eye, society can hopefully be more acutely aware of the fact that women are underrepresented in business and many other industries. Rain, snow, or sunshine, she'll be there to tell the world that the feminist movement has been through a lot, but it won't back down anytime soon.