Fearless girl reaction speaks to gender tensions in financial services, says State Street CEO

State Street chief says "outsized reaction" to Wall Street statue shows gender tensions persist. 
By Jonathan Watkins

The reaction of the financial services world to the unveiling of the Fearless Girl statue in Wall Street speaks to the gender tensions that still exist in the financial services world according to State Street’s CEO, Jay Hooley.

The statue – depicting a defiant girl standing in the way of the Wall Street bull – was installed by State Street’s asset management arm in March this year. The aim was to send a message about the power of female leadership.

However, critics accused State Street of using it as an advertisement, while others labelled it as ‘fake corporate feminism’.

Some of those voices highlighted that the word ‘SHE’ in capital letters on a plaque next to the statue was a subtle promotion of State Street’s SPDR Gender Diversity Index ETF – which carries the symbol of SHE as its Nasdaq ticker.

 “The fearless girl had such an outsized reaction that surprised all of us,” said Hooley, speaking to Global Custodian. “It speaks to the tension that exists in financial services when it comes to gender equality.”

State Street has been increasingly vocal in the gender equality debate in recent years. Along with the index and statue, State Street Global Advisors voted against the re-election of directors at 400 companies this year in a bid to increase the number of women on boards, according to the Wall Street Journal.

At Global Custodian’s Industry Leaders Awards in New York State Street were shortlisted for the Diversity award, while its efforts around the topic of equality contributed to its honour of receiving the Industry Pioneer award.

Hooley said he believed the statue has had a “positive effect” for State Street overall, adding that the custodian will continue to try to make itself an attractive place to work through “diversity and balance”.

“We are all in the talent game, and there is a high correlation between those with a diverse talent and those who succeed in the end.”