In March 2017, in honor of Women’s History Month, one of the world’s largest investment management firms, State Street Global Advisors, made news when it placed a bronze statue of a young girl directly across from Wall Street’s iconic “Charging Bull.” The “Fearless Girl,” as Kristen Visbal’s sculpture was titled, looked straight at the animal statue, seeming to challenge everything the bull stood for.
It quickly became an attraction and a feminist symbol: “We believe that corporate board diversity enhances board quality and effectiveness,” reads a statement the company published online when it put the statue up. The statement goes on to list statistics about female underrepresentation in board rooms. The company produced the statue as part of a campaign with advertising agency McCann, designed as a celebration of feminism and the role of women in the workplace.
Six months later, the statue is still on display in New York’s financial district, and State Street Company—State Street Global Advisors’ parent company—has agreed to pay nearly $4.5 million in back pay and over $507,000 in interest to settle a dispute alleging the company paid female and black employees less than white men.
According to documents filed Oct. 5 (pdf) by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program (OFCCP), “since at least December 1, 2010, and continuing thereafter, State Street discriminated against Females employed in the Senior Vice President (SVP), Managing Director (MD), and Vice President (VP) positions by paying them less, in base salary, bonus pay and total compensation, than similarly situated Males employed in the same position.”
The OFCCP also found that State Street similarly discriminated against black employees in the VP position. The analysis of the compensations of 305 female and 15 black employees was prompted by information collected during a compliance review.
The company was informed of the results of the investigation on Mar. 31, and rejected the findings. Today (Oct. 5) it agreed to settle instead of taking the case to court. In a statement made to Quartz, a spokesperson for State Street said that the company “is committed to equal pay practices and evaluates on an ongoing basis our internal processes to be sure our compensation, hiring and promotions programs are nondiscriminatory.” The spokesperson added that State Street disagrees with the Department of Labor findings, but has collaborated with the agency “and made a decision to bring this six-year-old matter to resolution and move forward.”