On March 8, 2017, a bronze statue of a young girl appeared on Wall Street, facing down the famous “Charging Bull” statue that has been a fixture on the street since 1989. The sculpture appeared just in time for #InternationalWomensDay, and “was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, the investment arm of Boston-based State Street Corp. with $2.5 trillion in funds, to help bring attention to the lack of women on corporate boards,” according to Shirley Leung’s March 9th Boston Globe article, “There’s no bull in the message behind ‘Fearless Girl’ Statue.” Leung went on to explain that the art piece’s “temporary installation coincides with SSGA’s new campaign to push the 3,500 public companies in which it invests to add more female directors.”
What State Street Global Advisors did well: They chose a powerful visual symbol. It usually takes an image for something to go viral, and the bronze sculpture of a simply-dressed little girl in a power stance, staring straight into the enormous bull sculpture, forces the viewer to take notice. The plaque at the girl’s feet reads “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” On a day on which #InternationalWomensDay was seen on every form of social media, this image lent itself nicely to being shared. The stunt was more than the sudden installation of the sculpture, as SSGA actually made organizational changes that showed they were serious about their message. A powerful symbol, great timing, and real news made this stunt extraordinarily effective.
The statue was a bigger success than anticipated. Leung explained, “While the women of State Street set out to make a statement, they never imagined a reaction like this. The statue has lit up Twitter with its own hashtag — #FearlessGirl — and is drawing crowds who have posted photos on social media. It has made both national and international headlines.” Fans immediately began a petition to make the temporary fixture permanent.
What could have been better: SGAA’s leadership still isn’t particularly balanced between men and women. The move was pretty bold for a company that, while making progress, doesn’t exactly exemplify what it’s preaching. This hypocrisy inspired a lot of criticism, leading to articles such as The Guardian’s “The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue sums up what’s wrong with feminism today.” The artist behind the bull statue claimed the Fearless Girl “distorted his art,” according to the Washington Post. Basically, State Street Global Advisor’s could have been a little more thoughtful before pointing fingers. They also could have been a little more relevant to their company, as most people probably have no idea who was even behind the installation. If they were going for advertising, this could have been better. If they were looking to promote a message – well, the message was received.