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October 9 2017

Company Behind Fearless Girl Statute Admits Gender Pay Issues

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

The company which brought us the “Fearless Girl” statue admits that they don’t live up to their criticisms of Wall Street companies about women in leadership.

State Street Corp., an investment company, that commissioned the controversial statue of women’s empowerment has agreed to pay out $5 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against female executives and a few black executives. (In full transparency, I worked for State Street as an intern in high school.)

As a federal contractor, State Street was audited by the U.S. Department of Labor which found alleged discrepancies. Women in senior leadership positions apparently received lower base salaries, bonus pay, and total compensation compared to similarly situated men from 2010-2011. They also found that the 15 black employees at the VP level may have also been underpaid.

State Street denies the allegations and reaffirmed their commitment to providing men and women and people of color equal pay.

There may be legitimate reasons why some female executives didn’t have salaries or compensation that lined up exactly to those of their male counterparts, which has nothing to do with gender. As we often point to the gender pay gap in similar jobs is driven by factors of choice such as hours worked, flexibility of roles, experience, negotiations, and more. We don’t know for sure what is the driver here.

The irony is that State Street brought the Fearless Girl campaign to Wall Street to finger wag about the lack of women in leadership and board positions.

State Street still thinks the campaign is a good idea – even if they can’t even live up to it. The company’s CMO noted at an event recently:

“Do we as an organization reflect the penultimate makeup and reflection in being a diverse organization? No. And that was a risk because a lot of the people felt the message might be diluted by a lot of cynical people saying, ‘Well who are you to talk about gender diversity when you’re not a perfect embodiment of it?'”

He continued: “What I would say to that is we had a foundation we could go back to to say why we did Fearless Girl, and no matter what anybody said, no matter what rocks were thrown, we could say, ‘You’re right, but this is the way we invest, this is the way the world needs to invest, this is a human moral value. How can you argue against it? We have to be doing better ourselves. She’s as much an inspiration to our organization as she is to the world.”

Here's a point for disagreement. Fearless Girl was problematic to begin with. Why are women in the workforce shrunk down to the little girl level? Is that how Wall street should view women, as little girls?

Furthermore, she’s facing the bull or standing up to the bull as though he is an adversary. The Charging Bull represents the strength of Wall Street and the economy. Our economy is one that gives women more economic opportunity than any other.

Where else can a woman rise to the ranks of leadership of a company with a trillion-dollar market cap or start her own business and become successful enough to sustain herself and her family?

If anything, shouldn’t a woman be riding the bull? We’re not trying to give them any ideas though.

As my colleague Charlotte Hayes wrote earlier last year, the “strength and resilience, has been turned into a misogynistic villain.”

Arturo Di Modica, the artist behind the Charging Bull, wants the Fearless Girl statue gone— arguing that it’s nothing but a publicity stunt by State Street. It’s more and more like he may be correct in his assessment.

The statue is reportedly scheduled to be removed next February. Perhaps 2018 can’t come too soon.

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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