A new study shows that State Street, the company behind the viral Fearless Girl statue, has voted against gender diversity initiatives on several occasions—moves that stand in contrast to the self-proclaimed ethos of the Fearless Girl campaign.
Today, Morningstar released a study that showed that SHE, State Street’s Gender Diversity Index ETF, which invests in companies with females in top roles, voted no on six and abstained from an additional two out of 10 total gender diversity-related shareholder resolutions over the past three years. SHE also voted no on all five resolutions related to pay equity that it had been presented with.
Other resolutions it voted against included proposals from both Aetna and Mastercard to compile annual reports on the gender pay gap at the company and a gender pay equity disclosure at American Express. SHE’s key goal is to increase female representation on corporate boards.
“In the past couple of years we have engaged with hundreds of companies on the importance of diversity, voted against directors over 1,000 times for lack of board gender diversity, and been a vocal proponent of the value of diversity in writing and speech,” a State Street spokesperson said in a statement in response to Adweek’s request for comment on the study. (McCann, State Street’s agency partner in Fearless Girl, deferred to State Street for comment.) “Examining our voting record on a set of shareholder proposals that have significant variations in language year over year does not tell the whole story of how we approach this issue.”
The statement continued: “We do not simply consider the topic being addressed in a shareholder proposal when deciding how to vote, rather we vote on a case-by-case basis, taking into account each company’s unique circumstances and the level of disclosure relative to our expectations.”
State Street’s stance on gender equality has come under scrutiny since the company unveiled its Fearless Girl statue in front of the Wall Street Charging Bull statue in March 2017, in partnership with the agency McCann New York. SHE was launched a year before that, with a press release describing its goal as seeking “to help address gender inequality in corporate America by offering investors an opportunity to create change with capital and seek a return on gender diversity.”
Though Fearless Girl was universally lauded, winning a whopping four Grand Prix and 18 total Lions at Cannes, State Street has seen some hiccups in regards to its reputation on gender equality as well as around $13 million in free publicity. In late 2017, the company was forced to pay $5 million to settle with 300-plus female employees who claimed they had been paid less than their male colleagues.
“SHE’s failure to support shareholder initiatives that contribute to workplace arrangements, which foster access to the highest corporate positions, seems shortsighted,” the Morningstar study read. “SHE is voting against the very initiatives that can help address gender inequality in corporate America.”