In March 2017, on the eve of International Women's Day, a mysterious statue appeared in front of the famous ‘Charging Bull’ on Wall Street. It turned out to be a young girl, complete with a dress on and swinging ponytail, with her arms at her sides, looking defiantly up at the bull. She is called the ‘Fearless Girl’, and was created by artist Kristen Visbal, commissioned by advertising agency McMann and sponsored by asset manager State Street Global Advisors.
The sculpture, which has since been moved to a site directly across from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), was part of a campaign by State Street to promote gender equality in business and their own commitment to it. According to the artist, the sculpture represents not only the ambitions of one company but also the global women's movement. This includes advocating for equal pay between women and men, women's rights and more women in positions of power. "For the good of society", said Visbal, "she must remain until these principles sink in".
The Fearless Girl was hailed as a powerful symbol, and people still queue up next to the statue to take pictures. But the statue is also controversial. A local blogger called it an example of "fake corporate feminism". So what exactly were the intentions behind this sculpture?
State Street Gender Equality Index Fund
Boston-based State Street is one of the world's largest asset managers, with $3.8 trillion under management. The company used the Fearless Girl in part to promote a new index fund and promote a new program designed to support gender diversity in corporate leadership positions. They decided to place the statue in front of the Charging Bull to draw attention to the glass ceiling women on Wall Street are trying to break through to achieve equal pay and promotion opportunities. Both State Street and the artist agreed to use the statue to promote several gender diversity goals.
Did State Street keep its promise?
In September 2017, a few months after the statue was erected, State Street was accused by the US Department of Labour of systematically discriminating against female and Black employees through unfair pay practices. State Street agreed to pay $5 million in compensation for these claims. The company issued a statement rejecting the government's findings and analysis but said it was cooperating nonetheless. The settlement caused people to question State Street's intentions behind the Fearless Girl as the initiative came just as the company was worried about the effect of the discrimination allegations on its reputation.
Breaking glass ceilings
Four years later, in 2021, State Street placed broken glass around the statue as a new symbol of progress towards achieving gender equality goals, and the plaque reads, "Today's broken glass ceilings are tomorrow's stepping stones." The Fearless Girl continues to promote the importance of women in leadership positions and its impact on corporate culture.
Investing in gender equality
Is gender equality something you care about and want to invest in? Then you may want to consider ETFs or look into ESG scores. Here’s what you need to know.
Invest in a gender equality ETF
An ETF exchange-traded fund (ETF) is an index fund that allows you to buy pieces of shares together in one basket. ETFs are sometimes themed, such as sustainability or AI, but also gender equality! Here are two gender-equality-themed ETFs that are available on our platform:
UBS (Irl) ETF plc-Glbl Gndr Equal (IE00BDR5GV14)
This ETF also has a fitting ticker symbol- GENDER. This ETF tracks the performance of the Solactive Equileap Global Gender Equality 100 Leaders index. Included in the index are companies that are committed to gender diversity as a part of their corporate responsibilty strategy.
Lyxor Global Gender Equality (LU1691909508)
In some markets, this ETF trades under the appropriate ticker symbol ELLE. It also tracks the performance of the Solative Equileap Global Gender Equality 100 Leaders index.
Investing with ESG Scores
On our platform, you will find an ESG score provided by Refinitiv for a ton of companies. ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance, and these scores provide insight into how well companies perform in these areas.
Gender equality is part of the social and governance pillars in ESG. To find how a company performs in regards to these two ESG pillars, go to the company’s profile page in the platform and select ‘ESG Risk Ratings’. Here you will find many metrics, such as ‘Board Gender Diversity, Percent Score’, ‘Gender Pay Gap Percentage’ and ‘Women Employees Percentage’, which can help indicate where a company stands in terms of gender equality. This way, you can consciously invest your money in companies that correspond with your values.
Investing with DEGIRO
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The information in this article is not written for advisory purposes, nor is it intended to recommend investments. Please note that facts may have changed since the article was originally written. Investing involves risk. You could lose some or all of your money. We advise you to only invest in financial products that match your knowledge and experience.
Sources: The New Yorker, Refinitiv, State Street Global Advisors, Bloomberg