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Jan Lee headshot

Wall Street's 'Fearless Girl' Backer Slapped with Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

By Jan Lee

The company that had backed the installation of Wall Street's iconic "Fearless Girl" statue apparently has some explaining to do to the U.S. Labor Department.

Earlier this month State Street Corp, which has been an outspoken proponent of gender parity agreed to a $5 million settlement for gender and racial discrimination in its executive ranks.

According to the Labor Department, which initiated the lawsuit on behalf of several hundred complainants, investigators found the bank had discriminated against women when it paid female executives "less in base pay, bonus pay and total compensation than similarly situated Males (sic)employed in the same positions."

Investigators also found that female black employees in the group were paid less than white counterparts. The investigations trace the pay inequities as far back as 2010 and allege that by not conducting "an in-depth analysis of its employment process to determine whether and where impediments to equal opportunity exist," the corporation set itself up for accusations of racial and gender discrimination.

State Street Corp. denies the allegations but has agreed to a settlement that would reimburse the 300 members for the back pay and interest accrued since their hiring or promotion.

State Street has made headlines in recent years for its effort to encourage other companies to support gender parity in their hiring practices. Earlier this year, it announced that it would vote against boards that didn't display a genuine effort to create gender parity. The announcement, like the appealing little girl's defiant stance, drew crowds and selfies from workers and tourists aligned with its message.

Even at that time, Fortune writer Annalyn Kurtz noted, State Street's own gender diversity policies were being criticized, suggesting that while the company had a point, it seemed harder for corporations entrenched in the Wall Street milieu to break age-old conventions. Since the statue was also part of a marketing push for State Street's asset management services, the company gained a fair number of skeptical critics along its bumpy road to promoting gender diversity.

Still, interesting to note that according to the settlement's guidelines, the lawsuit wasn't really about whether the corporation had made intentional efforts to thwart labor laws but whether it had failed to enforce scrutiny and more accountability in all levels of its hiring practices. State Street, a $2.56 trillion asset management firm, has more than 33,000 employees spread across 30 countries. For a company that thought it was doing the right thing by pushing for gender diversity on Wall Street, the lawsuit is no doubt a sobering lesson about the challenges of meeting those goals.


Flickr images: Anthony Quintano; Anthony Quintano

Jan Lee headshot

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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