Fearless Girl is proving to be much more than an eye-catching statue in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
Three years after State Street Global Advisors installed her to launch a gender diversity campaign as part of International Women's Day, the firm has engaged with companies around the world and has seen 681 of them adding female directors to previously all-male boards.
To mark that number, Fearless Girl now has a living wall, a vertical garden with the 681 figure behind her, symbolizing the need to grow more senior leadership positions for women.
Another milestone came in 2019, when for the first time, every S&P 500 company had at least one female board member. "Because of her inspiration, every one of these companies now has women helping to develop strategy, set priorities, hire management, and chart the course for the future," SSGA President and CEO Cyrus Taraporevala wrote in a recent blog post.
Fearless Girl "sent a powerful message to the corporate boardroom," Mr. Taraporevala said. "We called on companies to create greater gender diversity on their boards — and said we would use our proxy voting power to hold them accountable. We did this not just because it was the right thing to do — but because companies with gender diverse leadership typically perform better. But with a quarter of companies at the time not having even a single woman on their boards, it was clear that the issue was one of performance and value. ... Bolstered by her success, we've continued to press companies on a host of sustainability metrics we know are important to long-term performance," he said.
As of February this year, 681 of companies out of the 1,384 identified by SSGA responded by adding a female director, including 495 in the U.S., 101 in Japan, 33 in Canada, 13 in the U.K. and nine in Europe.
The firm is now setting its sights on Hong Kong and Singapore, taking its gender diversity voting guidelines to companies listed on the FTSE Straits Times and Hang Seng indexes. If companies fail to engage or address gender diversity for four years straight, SSGA will also vote against the entire nominating and governance committees. "Moving beyond the committee chairs with our voting action reflects the fact that while many companies have been responsive, there is still work to be done," said Rakhi Kumar, SSGA's chief strategist for ESG and asset stewardship.