A statue of a “Fearless Girl” faces the “Charging Bull” of Wall Street in New York. She was installed March 8, 2017 in honor of International Women’s Day with an inscription at the base that reads, “Know the power of women in leadership. She makes a difference.” Needless to say, Fearless Girl became an immediate hit, drawing crowds who snapped selfies or stood alongside the bronze child and mimicked her pose: hands on her hips, slight smile on her face, and her skirt and ponytail seeming to blow in the breeze. She stands a little over 4 feet tall. She’s brave, proud and strong.
“Fearless Girl” was created by the sculptor Kristen Visbal. While the statue became the topic of discussion and stirred controversy by some who wished to have her removed, the push to make the statue permanent began shortly after her installation. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio called the statue a symbol of “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.” He announced the decision to extend her stay until the next International Women’s Day, which is in two days. City officials in New York are still deciding what to do after March 8, 2018 when the fate of Fearless Girl will be decided.
If Charging Bull (male) represents optimism and stubbornness and stands as a symbol of American capitalism creating a better America and a better world, it stands to reason that a confident Fearless Girl should take equal part in creating a better nation and a better world. “Fearless Girl” sends a message to the financial industry about gender equality. This girl facing the bull also says to Wall Street that we need more diversification on the boards of companies because there are serious obstacles that confirm the historical imbalance in discrimination and exploitation in leadership roles. For example, it’s common knowledge that female entrepreneurs receive far less funding for their startups than men. What is surprising is just how far behind women really are. In 2017, according to PitchBook, women-led companies received only two percent of the seed money put into the startup economy. In stark contrast, companies run by men received 79 percent of the $85 billion that seed monies invested last year. The gender gap is wide. Female founders receive funding at lower levels than men. PitchBook reported that while the average deal size for companies led by men was $12 million in 2017, for women-led companies, that average was as low as $5 million. How can we talk about equality when companies are not as committed to leveling the playing field to hire or fund equally the number of women in the corporate industry? The earning gap between genders also remains imbalanced and discriminatory with women earning an average of .80 cents for every dollar earned by men in comparable work. Research also shows that men are promoted to leadership positions based on potential while women are judged on their performance. ‘Thinking’ women who talk in meetings are aggressive while men who do so are bold and smart. Gender biases. They still dominate the corporate industry all around the world. Yet there is no situation I can imagine in which women are less in comparison to men.
This year, it is even more imperative that Fearless Girl stand up to the Bull. Her fate comes in the wake of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women has captured headlines and public discourse, impelled by a rising determination for change. This year, the theme for International Women’s Day, “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives,” is apropos. We need to help forge a better working world; a more inclusive, gender equal world. We need role models to inspire the next generation of girls – to lead by example, to show them that no career, no future path, is out of their reach. Empowering girls is the only way to protect their rights. And for those women who have made their mark as equals in their field, we need our young people to view them as the norm, not the exception.
The greatest human rights challenge in our world is achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls from every angle. It remains the unfinished business of our time. Fearless Girl is a powerful symbol to women young and old to take on this challenge. Time is now. Empowering women shouldn’t be temporary; “Fearless Girl” must be a permanent sculpture in our minds and in our world.