State Street Corporation, the financial services firm behind Wall Street‘s famous Fearless Girl statue, has found itself in a particularly awkward situation, paying out $5 million to settle a lawsuit with a group of 320 female and black executives who claim they were paid less than their white male counterparts.
The Fearless Girl statue, showing a young girl with her hands on her hips staring down Wall Street’s famous charging bull, was commissioned by State Street Global Advisers, a division of State Street, in order to “celebrate the power of women in leadership and to urge greater gender diversity on corporate boards.”
The statue, which debuted on International Women’s Day, was a viral success, featuring in more than 250,000 Instagram posts in the ensuing weeks, and generating an estimated $7.4 million in marketing for State Street’s She Fund, an index which aims to advance gender diversity in business leadership.
The statue now has an extra, unfortunate connotation after an investigation by the US Department of Labor concluded that State Street had remunerated female executives with “less in base pay, bonus pay and total compensation” than male executives in similar positions. The investigation found the same to be true of certain black executives.
The settlement payout includes $4.5 million in back pay and $500,000 in interest, and while it is not an admission of guilt on State Street’s part, it’s not a particularly great look for them. A representative for the company disputed the Department of Labor’s finding, but said that the company opted to settle to avoid the six-year-old matter from dragging out longer.
State Street said that it remains “committed to equal pay practices” and will evaluate its internal processes on an ongoing basis “to be sure our compensation, hiring and promotions programs are non-discriminatory.”
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