Is State Street committed to pay equity?
“Absolutely,” Brie Williams, head of practice management at State Street Global Advisors, said during the Raymond James Women’s Symposium last week.
The question is a valid one. Earlier this month, the firm behind the “Fearless Girl” statue agreed to pay $5 million to more than 300 women to settle allegations that it discriminated against hundreds of female executives by paying them less than male colleagues. A Labor Department audit uncovered the alleged discrepancies, according to a settlement agreement.
State Street Global Advisors installed its “Fearless Girl” statue challenging the “Charging Bull” statue that stands in the Financial District in New York City in March. The statue is, in part, meant to call attention to the existing gender disparity in leadership positions, particularly at the corporate board level.
Williams admits that the statue was not a “statement of accomplishment” within State Street.
“Unequivocally it is important and imperative that we be transparent with what our commitment is about,” she said. “We believe in equal pay for equal work. And we stand behind what Fearless Girl represents. She’s inspirational and aspirational. She was never meant to be a statement of accomplishment.”
The statue is also part of a broader initiative at SSGA. The same day it put up the statue, SSGA called on the more than 3,500 companies in the U.S., U.K. and Australia that it invests in to take intentional steps to increase the number of women on their corporate boards. As part of this, SSGA developed a list of guidelines to drive greater board gender diversity through active dialogue and engagement with company and board leadership.
The statue’s installation was timed to commemorate International Women’s Day and the one-year anniversary of the SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE).
When it announced the gender diversity guidelines, State Street also said that it would use its proxy voting power to influence change if any company fails to take action to increase the number of women on its board.
According to Williams, State Street followed up on that warning.
“During the proxy season this year, we actually did use our no vote to 400 companies,” she said.
She also noted that 42 companies in particular have been making good progress, and two of them have already put women on boards – which, Williams said is “amazing.”