Since its placement in Bowling Green Park last year by agency McCann New York and its client State Street Global Advisors, Fearless Girl has swept the nation and captured the hearts of millions as it became the symbol of female empowerment and increasing gender diversity on corporate boards.
Its original placement, staring down the Charging Bull statue, was only intended to last one week. “But she earned a place in people’s hearts,” said SSGA deputy global chief information officer Lori Heinel this morning at the unveiling of the statue’s permanent home facing the New York Stock Exchange. (It was installed Sunday night.)
“She was meant to stay just a short time, but New Yorkers did not want to see her go,” Congresswoman Carolyn Malone, an early advocate of finding a permanent placement for the statue, added at the event. “Now instead of staring down the bull, she’s going to be staring down all of business.”
Fearless Girl’s homecoming feels like a long time coming. Since its installment on International Women’s Day last March, there’s been some contentious debate over whether it deserves a permanent home—and where that home would be. In February, sources told Adweek that SSGA had reached an agreement with the Office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to allow the statue to stay—under the condition it would relocate to a more pedestrian-friendly destination, due to its growing popularity as a tourist hub.
At that time, people close to the situation thought Charging Bull would move with Fearless Girl. That no longer seems to be the case.
The sculptor behind Charging Bull, Arturo Di Modica, and Bowling Green Association chairman Arthur Piccolo have been calling for Fearless Girl’s detachment from the bull, arguing that the wide reporting surrounding Fearless Girl distorted the original statue’s meaning as a symbol of economic growth. Piccolo praised the removal of Fearless Girl from Bowling Green last month (when it began its journey to the NYSE), calling it “a victory for artistic integrity.”
Heinel told Adweek at the unveiling on Monday that Fearless Girl’s placement “in front of an iconic landmark like the New York Stock Exchange” is “fabulous,” noting that the location will increase the statue’s visibility. Heinel added that she does not believe there are any immediate plans to relocate the bull to Fearless Girl.
Betty Liu, who was named executive of the NYSE in June, said at the event that Fearless Girl “is a fearless addition to the neighborhood.” She added that the statue will “reach millions of people” each year in its new popular tourist destination in the heart of Wall Street.
Of course, Fearless Girl reached that many people—and that many Instagram feeds—in just the few hours following its installation. It was a powerful marketing campaign that earned McCann New York an astonishing four Grand Prix at Cannes in 2017.
The statue also led 301 companies that SSGA “identified as not having a single woman on their boards” prior to its installation to add a female director, said SSGA president and CEO Cyrus Taraporevala at this morning’s event, adding that “another 28 have committed to doing so.”
“I’m still getting goose bumps just looking at this. … Cognitive diversity leads to better decision making at the board level,” Taraporevala said, adding that the campaign is not “part of some political agenda” but a “longterm performance agenda.”
Still, the relevance of Fearless Girl was called into question last year after State Street Corp., the parent company of SSGA, was forced to issue a $5 million payout to 300 women and 15 black employees after a federal audit found the company was allegedly paying them less than their white male counterparts. State Street denied that claim.
Fearless Girl seems to have since quelled any doubts of its significance.
“She represents progress, potential and hope,” said Carmelyn Malalis, chair and commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “But she also represents all of the women who fought for equality before us, on whose shoulders I and so many other people stand. … Visibility matters. Representation matters. That’s why Fearless Girl is so important.”