A Bunch of Bull? Wall Street Firm Behind ‘Fearless Girl’ Settles Gender Discrimination Suit

The financial firm behind Fearless Girl, the bronze statue controversially installed on Wall Street opposite Charging Bull as a symbol supporting gender equality, has paid $5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that 300 women and 15 black employees were paid less than their white and male peers.

According to a US federal audit, State Street Corporation, the parent company of financial firm State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), which orchestrated the Fearless Girl campaign with advertising corporation McCann, discriminated against senior-level employees. State Street denies wrongdoing, Bloomberg has reported.

Kristen Visbal's <em>Fearless Girl</em> statue stands facing Arturo DiModica's iconic <em>Charging Bull</em> sculpture as tourists take pictures. DiModica alleges that <em>Fearless Girl</em> infringes upon his copyright, distorts his artistic message, and should be moved elsewhere. Courtesy of Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl statue stands facing Arturo DiModica’s iconic Charging Bull sculpture. Courtesy of Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

Fearless Girl was an immediate viral success on social media, riding the wave of feminist sentiment from the post-Inauguration Women’s March. But the motives behind the statue soon came into question.

The sculpture was initially accompanied by a plaque that read “KNOW THE POWER OF WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP/SHE MAKES A DIFFERENCE.” The “SHE” in question, however, turned out not to be the diminutive girl facing down the big bad bull, but the SSGA Gender Diversity Index, an exchange-traded fund that bears the ticker symbol “SHE.” The plaque was later removed following backlash alleging that Fearless Girl was a calculated ad, not the inspirational artwork it had first seemed.

Kristen Visbal's <em>Fearless Girl</em> statue stands facing Arturo DiModica's iconic <em>Charging Bull</em> sculpture as tourists take pictures. DiModica alleges that <em>Fearless Girl</em> infringes upon his copyright, distorts his artistic message, and should be moved elsewhere. Courtesy of Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl statue stands facing Arturo DiModica’s iconic Charging Bull sculpture as tourists take pictures. DiModica has alleged that Fearless Girl infringes upon his copyright, distorts his artistic message, and should be moved elsewhere. Courtesy of Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

The latest revelations about SSGA lend further ammunition to those who would decry Fearless Girl, which was designed by artist Kristen Visbal, as an opportunistic publicity stunt that capitalized on the iconic nature of Charging Bull, itself originally a guerrilla art installation by Arturo Di Modica. (He has accused Fearless Girl of infringing upon his copyright.)

“The Fearless Girl project was always a SCAM allowing a TRILLION dollar financial firm to get many MILLIONS of dollars of FREE publicity on PUBLIC land,” wrote Arthur Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association, and a champion of the Charging Bull statue. He called SSGA a “hypocrite company” that “abuses Bowling Green and Arturo DiModica.” (According to the Guardian, the Fearless Girl promotion brought SSGA an estimated $7.4 million in free marketing.)

Kristen Visbal's <em>Fearless Girl</em> statue stands facing Arturo DiModica's iconic <em>Charging Bull</em> sculpture as tourists take pictures. DiModica alleges that <em>Fearless Girl</em> infringes upon his copyright, distorts his artistic message, and should be moved elsewhere. Courtesy of Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl. Courtesy of Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

Upon the statue’s initial installation, Hyperallergic found that McCann’s leadership was only 27 percent female, and SSGA’s was even lower, at 18 percent.
The news of the settlement came on the eve of the season premiere of the CW’s Supergirl, featuring an apparent homage to the statue. According to comicbook/dc, the show’s title character was honored for saving the city with a statue, titled Girl of Steel, of her springing into action, sporting a similarly brave and defiant look as Fearless Girl.

Kristen Visbal's <em>Fearless Girl</em>, a four-foot statue of a young girl, defiantly looks up at Arturo DiModica's iconic Wall Street <em>Charging Bull</em> sculpture in New York City. <em>Fearless Girl</em> was installed for International Women's Day in March to draw attention to the gender pay gap and lack of gender diversity on corporate boards in the financial sector. Courtesy of Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl, a four-foot statue of a young girl, defiantly looks up at Arturo DiModica’s iconic Wall Street Charging Bull sculpture in New York City. Courtesy of Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

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