In an opinion piece, New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante highlights what she sees as the problematic message conveyed by “Fearless Girl,” the bronze statue of a small child installed opposite the famous Wall Street “Charging Bull” on the eve of International Women’s Day. The statue is part of State Street Global Advisors’ new campaign to urge companies to add more women to their corporate boards. State Street, the world’s third-largest asset manager, cites improved company performance and increased shareholder value as key reasons for companies to improve gender diversity.
Bellafante, however, takes issue with the “corporate feminism” embodied by the statue because it operates, she argues, with “the singular goal of aiding and abetting a universe of mothers who tuck their daughters in at night whispering, ‘Someday, honey, you can lead the emerging markets and sovereign debt team at Citigroup, and then become a director at Yahoo.’”
Chief among her concerns with the statue is the very firm behind it. State Street sets a poor example for the importance of gender diversity on boards, she argues. While State Street says it is trying to increase its number of female executives in its ranks, at present only five of its 28-person leadership team are women, according to its website.
Bellafante goes on to question the virtuousness of the company’s motives for installing the statue. She doubts that State Street is genuinely concerned with encouraging young girls to be confident and strive for the top, and is critical of the way the firm’s suggestion that greater gender diversity improves financial performance and helps companies reduce government-related issues such as bribery and corruption. This, she notes, harks back to the 19th century temperance movements, when women were used as “moral safeguards” to push forward a capitalist agenda and further enrich wealthy industrialists. In other words, it’s not good enough for companies to decide to care about feminism only when it becomes financially profitable to do so.
Though the statue has been widely celebrated on social media, not all women have been so enamored with it. Last week, in an essay for the website Hypoallergic, Jillian Steinhauer denounced the statue as “fake corporate feminism.” Similarly, in a column for TownHall.com, Erielle Davidson, a former analyst for a Wall Street, firm took issue with the message she interpreted, arguing that the statue “is a reminder of what divides us.”
Bellafante concludes that the statue is an example of “gestural feminism,” not unlike the type she believes the pink pussy hats, ubiquitous at the Women’s March on Washington, represented. She goes on to explain why she thinks statue really only speaks to the Sheryl Sandberg and Ivanka Trump brand of feminism. And she surmises that the real motive behind the statue is an attempt by State Street to divert attention from an inconvenient investigation the Justice Department is conducting on the firm.
Read the full piece at The New York Times.