Photo: Brendan McDermid/Reuters
On March 07, 2017, State Street Global Advisors, which manage some $2.5 trillion in assets, signaled their support of International Women’s Day the following day – when they temporarily placed a roughly 50-inch-tall bronze statue of a defiant girl in front of Wall Street's iconic charging-bull statue in New York City.
The statue which was designed by artist Kristen Visbal, depicts a young girl in a dress standing fearlessly with her hands on her hip and her chin up. It has lured flocks of people to Wall Street, where many have posed for photos next to it.
The idea is to make a strong statement about feminism, about gender diversity. And yet it is much more than mere symbolism. The firm followed up the installation with a letter to companies in the Russell 3000 index asking them to take action to increase the diversity on their boards. There is room for improvement: State Street say that roughly a quarter of the 3,500 companies they sent letters to have no women on their boards.
[Note: The Russell 3000 Index is a market capitalization weighted equity index maintained by the Russell Investment Group that seeks to be a benchmark of the entire US stock market. More specifically, this index encompasses the 3,000 largest US-traded stocks, in which the underlying companies are all incorporated in the US].
State Street, the investment arm of the Boston-based financial firm State Street Corporation have a long history of engaging with companies on corporate-governance issues, although they usually do so in a very quiet way.
It has been reported that more than 8,000 people have signed an online petition last Friday urging the city’s mayor to let this particular bronze statue stay in the center of the world’s financial capital.
All of this may be fine – but let’s not forget that it is more than “molding young girls in the image of a banking industry that bets against us, shorts us, and then receives government bailout money” – as Cara Marsh Sheffler daringly puts it (The Guardian, March 14, 2017). “We need women who will realize new possibilities for companies to work toward the common good”.
More than this, I think it is important that we embrace a world view – not just focusing on any one segment of the population. We must remember, recognize and represent the needs of everybody, and not forgetting, the marginalized – “those who didn’t go straight from Harvard Business School to a hedge fund without a care in the world”.
I was at Havana Bar & Grill in KL’s chic and bustling Changkat Bukit Bintang last evening for another Liquid Gold Advanced Toastmasters meeting. I delivered my CC speech #6 simply titled "Victor".