A new statue of a resolute young girl now faces Wall Street's famous Charging Bull, erected by a major asset managing firm for International Women's Day to make a point: There's a dearth of women on the boards of the largest U.S. corporations.
State Street Global Advisors, the Boston-based investment giant, had the statue created to push companies to increase the number of women directors.
Artist Kristen Visbal's "Fearless Girl" drew both tourists who came to pose for pictures with the bull and workers arriving at their jobs in the Wall Street area Wednesday.
The girl, sculpted in bronze, appears to be staring down the bronze bull, her hands firmly planted on her waist. Her head is held high, with a ponytail that looks like it's swinging.
"Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference," reads a plaque at her feet.
"As a steward of nearly $2.5 trillion of assets, we want to engage with boards and management around issues that we think will drive core results," said Lori Heinel, State Street's deputy global chief investment officer. "And what you find repeatedly is having more diverse boards and more diverse senior management will actually drive better results for companies."
Twenty-five percent of the Russell 3000 — an index of the nation's largest companies — have no women on their boards, according to State Street, which manages many of their assets. Nearly 60 percent have fewer than 15 percent of female directors.
Heinel said State Street will contact those companies, urging them to change the composition of their leadership. She said the financial giant also is working with companies in Great Britain and Australia to urge them to pursue diversity in board membership.
One man working in corporate America needed no convincing.
Chandrasekar Sundaram says a woman is the CEO of the company he works for in Texas, Hewlett-Packard, and he says there are quite a few women in top executive positions there.
"But when it gets to 50 percent, that's when I think it'll be right," said Sundaram, a Dallas resident and native of India who was visiting New York with his family — with the Charging Bull as one of their stops.
The mammoth bronze was a "guerrilla art" act, dropped in the middle of the night in Bowling Green Park in 1989, without permission, by an artist who created it as a symbol of Americans' survival energy in the face of the 1987 stock market crash. The city gave its permission for the bull to remain.
This week, McCann New York, a top advertising agency, dropped off the statue of the girl — with a city permit for at least a week. Negotiations are underway for the piece to remain there longer.
Why choose the Charging Bull as the site to place the girl?
"Well, we really wanted the bull to have a partner, and a partner that we thought was worthy of him," Heinel said. "And so we got a very determined young woman who is fearless and is willing to drive the change that we believe we need."
Sundaram's 8-year-old daughter, Sankaribriya, got the message.
She wanted to pose with the sculpted girl "because I just wanted to look at her and wanted to feel like her."
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