Firm behind 'Fearless Girl' statue pays out US$5 million in equal pay settlement

NEW YORK: Defiantly facing off against Wall Street's iconic "Charging Bull," the popular bronze sculpture of a "Fearless Girl" was meant to symbolize the power of female leadership in the male-dominated world of high finance.

But the investment firm which commissioned the statue on Thursday agreed to a US$5 million (RM21.2 million) payout to more than 300 female and black employees who were paid less than their white, male counterparts, according to an audit by the US Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (FCCP).

According to a filing seen by AFP, the investigation found that the company "since at least Dec 1, 2010" paid 305 women in senior roles such as senior vice president, managing director, and vice president positions less than similarly situated men, with similar discrimination against 15 black vice presidents.

State Street denied both allegations but agreed to the settlement nonetheless.

"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," the fund said in a statement.

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

Standing at just over four feet tall, the statue of a girl with her hands on her hips and chin jutting out created a stir when it was installed in March this year.

Created by US artist Kristen Visbal, the work became a defiant symbol of women's rights under President Donald Trump, who won election last year despite the emergence of a video of him bragging about groping women.

"Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference," reads a plaque underneath it, referring to the fund's NASDAQ ticker symbol.

But the Italian-American artist who created "Charging Bull," which has stood south of Wall Street for nearly 30 years, alleged that "Fearless Girl" breached his copyright and distorted his artistic message, vowing to sue.

Erected initially for a week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio later announced it would remain in place until at least Mar next year. — AFP