The mood in New York was sombre following the US election.
The usual street performers, tourists, hot dog vans and busy, iPhone-wielding locals littered the streets, but this time it all occurred against a sharp backdrop of political protest and general social uneasiness. The city was unquestionably reeling from the shock result of President, Donald Trump.
In the midst of all this however, a clear symbol of hope stood proudly in the city’s most famous district. The statue of the Fearless Girl staring down Wall Street’s Charging Bull became a reminder to New Yorkers and the world that progress was still underway.
As my friend and I stood amongst throngs of people waiting for a photo, I was blown away by the bold message carried forth by the statue’s defiance.
Fearless Girl, erected on International Women’s Day this year, was widely celebrated for showcasing the power of women in leadership and gender equality more broadly. It became a powerful image, published throughout mainstream media for months.
But now, that much needed symbol of hope has been shrouded by hypocrisy, with news breaking last week that the firm which commissioned the famous statue to be erected, has been grossly underpaying its female employees.
— Charles Lipson (@Charles_Lipson) October 6, 2017
The company, State Street Corporation has been forced to settle claims that it discriminated against 305 top female workers, by paying them significantly less than men in similar positions. It is also alleged that the firm discriminated against fifteen of its black vice presidents, paying them far less than their white counterparts. Officials working on the case, allege that compensation discrimination dates back to December 2010.
In a statement on Thursday, the company said that it was “committed to equal pay practices and evaluates on an ongoing basis our internal processes to be sure our compensation, hiring and promotions programs are non-discriminatory.”
The New York Times claimed that State Street, a financial services firm, had indeed denied the allegations, but had agreed to pay about $4.5 million in back pay and about $500,000 in interest into a settlement fund for the affected employees.
Seemingly, an unlikely course of action for a company in the clear.
Whether this saga is plays out as irony, hypocrisy or just plain madness, the reality is that it also carries a far greater consequence. What was once a symbol of strength, progress and power for women the world over, has now been reduced to a sad and inevitably meaningless publicity stunt.