Why the Fearless Girl Statue’s Controversial ‘SHE’ Plaque Was Removed
The controversy over the “Fearless Girl” statue, which has defiantly faced Wall Street’s iconic “Charging Bull” since International Women’s Day last month, got new life this weekend when a viral blog post sparked new backlash against the feminist artwork. Yet much of that anger may be misplaced.
While the anti-Fearless Girl movement had largely centered around questionable copyright claims by the bull’s sculptor, blogger Greg Fallis drew attention to another aspect of the female statue that created even more outrage: the plaque initially installed at the Fearless Girl’s feet, reading “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”
The plaque’s reference to “SHE” doubled as a subtle plug for an investment product offered by State Street Global Advisors, the firm that commissioned the Fearless Girl statue. The SSGA Gender Diversity Index is also an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that trades under the ticker symbol “SHE.”
Fallis, a writer and photographer, wrote that he agreed with part of the argument by Charging Bull sculptor Arturo Di Modica, who has called the Fearless Girl “an advertising trick.” “She’s an example of how commercialization can take something important and meaningful—something about which everybody should agree —and shit all over it by turning it into a commodity,” Fallis wrote. “Fearless Girl is beautiful, but she is selling SHE; that’s why she’s there.”
His post spurred a flurry of calls on social media to get rid of the ETF plaque, if not the statue itself. What the backlash failed to notice, however, was that it was already long gone: State Street (STT) had the plaque removed more than two weeks ago.
A spokesperson for State Street confirmed to Fortune that the plaque was removed on the night of Sunday, April 2, the same date the Fearless Girl statue’s permit was set to expire.
And its decision to pull up the plaque had nothing to do with the controversy or Di Modica’s claims, the investment firm says. Rather, the switch took place after the Fearless Girl was inducted into the New York City Department of Transportation’s public art project, allowing it to stay with the bull through next February.
Instead, a new plaque was installed April 12 on a signpost off to the side of the statue, which makes no mention of the ETF, saying:
Fearless Girl was placed in New York City’s Financial District, in honor of International Women’s Day 2017, to celebrate the importance of having greater gender diversity in corporate boards and in company leadership positions. She also stands as an inspiration for the next generation of women leaders”—presented by the New York City Department of Transportation Art Program and State Street Global Advisors
The replacement plaque is far enough away from the statue that it was completely obscured by the throng of tourists taking photos with the bull and Fearless Girl when Fortune looked it for it Monday.
Meanwhile, the SSGA Gender Diversity Index, which is designed to include stocks of companies with female leaders in their top ranks—its largest holdings are Pfizer (PFE), PepsiCo (PEP) and (AMGN)—continues to attract new investors. The SHE ETF (which is listed on the NYSE ARCA exchange, not the Nasdaq, as Fallis said in his post) has received $3.2 million in new inflows since March alone, half of its total inflows in 2017 so far. The fund currently has about $286 million in overall assets.