Fearless Girl creator State Street comes in for media scrutiny for 'ironic' gender inequality settlement

The parent company of the US financial services giant whose Fearless Girl campaign took Cannes by storm earlier this year has come in for widespread criticism for alleged practices directly contradicting the campaign's equality message.

McCann New York's campaign for investment management firm State Street Global Advisors, featuring a statue of a young girl staring down Wall Street's famous charging bull, won the PR Lions Grand Prix and a host of other awards in the south of France in June.


Also see: Study reveals global PR gender pay gap and points finger at women's 'lack of confidence'


On Friday, it was widely reported that its parent firm State Street had paid $5m (£3.8m) to the US Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), following the findings of a 2012 audit by the organisation.

The OFCCP said in a widely circulated 'Conciliation Agreement' that it believes that "since at least December 1, 2010, State Street has paid Females employed in SVP, MD and VP positions less per year than similarly situated Male employees". The $5m payout does not legally indicate an admission of guilt, but means the matter is closed.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: "State Street is committed to equal pay practices and evaluates on an ongoing basis our internal processes to be sure our compensation, hiring and promotions programs are nondiscriminatory.

"While we disagreed with the OFCCP’s analysis and findings in the US, we have cooperated fully with them, and made a decision to bring this six-year-old matter to resolution and move forward."

The payment earned the firm plenty of negative headlines across the globe, with most pointing out the juxtaposition between the allegations and the Fearless Girl campaign.

Media pounces on 'irony'

"The question: Is this called irony or an unfortunately ugly coincidence?," asked Erik Sherman in Forbes, while in a scathing piece, GQ's Jack Moore said: "Today the statue gained new ironic significance. It turns out State Street hasn't practiced what they preached in terms of the gender wage gap, and now they are literally paying for it."

In a separate development, the Guardian reported that the company has "quietly and consistently" opposed moves at companies in which it holds shares to shed light on gender pay gaps. "On a shareholder proposal calling for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to disclose any pay disparities between men and women, State Street voted no. On the same proposal before Wells Fargo, State Street voted no," the Guardian reports.

State Street declined to comment on this.

The group has made a number of comms hires and promotions in recent months, although one of those promoted left for a new role at financial services giant John Hancock shortly after.

This is not the first time this year that State Street has been in trouble with regulators - just last month, it agreed to pay more than $35m to the US Securities and Exchange Commission to "settle charges that it fraudulently charged secret markups for transition management services and separately omitted material information about the operation of its platform for trading US Treasury securities".

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