“Fearless Girl” and Stacey Cunningham Take on the NYSE

Private: Elizabeth “Biz” Cozine

Senior Account Executive

“Fearless Girl” came. She saw. She conquered.

Just one month after moving the iconic Fearless Girl statue from the Charging Bull to the New York Stock Exchange, the city’s biggest money mover appointed its first-ever female leader. Stacey Cunningham, the former COO of NYSE Group, was tapped to be the organization’s new president, succeeding Thomas Farley.

“Since the moment I stepped onto the trading floor, the @NYSE has always held a special place in my heart. I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization,” she said in a tweet.

Coincidence? We’re not totally sold.

Although the city claims it wanted to find a more “pedestrian-friendly” location while maintaining the integrity of Fearless Girl’s purpose, the timing is not only fascinating, but also empowering.

“Our goal is to promote the power of having women in leadership, and placing her right next to the New York Stock Exchange is really the perfect metaphor,” Cyrus Taraporevala, president and CEO of State Street Global Advisors, told the Daily News in mid-April.

And what better way to do so than a literal break through the glass ceiling on the heels of a metaphorical one?

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, a former Goldman Sachs employee, said the statue is a “much, much more serious symbol of trying to deal with a broken status quo for women,” particularly in the corporate world.

Fearless Role Models on the Rise

While Cunningham’s appointment comes 226 years into the NYSE’s existence, it’s just one of many major breakthroughs for women over the past six months. Deemed “Year of the Woman,” 2018 has been an iconic few months for females. We’ve seen the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements blossom, inspiring women across all industries to speak up against sexual harassment. We’ve watched as 19-year-old Emma Gonzalez stood in the face of lobbyists and politicians, demanding gun reform with the eloquence of a seasoned policy-maker. And right here at Vested, we’ve witnessed our own team of talented and dedicated ladies make their mark on the world of financial communications.

Much like Fearless Girl, women have come a long way in a short period of time and will only continue to persevere in corporate America. Look at women running for office. As it stands, women make up just one in five elected officials on Capitol Hill, Politico reported. But this year, a record number of women are throwing their hats in the ring: 575, to be exact. Organizations like Get Her Elected, She Should Run, and others are working to ensure 2018 is a year for the books.

In turn, we will hopefully see a change in the private sector. Forbes predicted that with more female candidates and officeholders, women in the private sector will be more inclined to push for the C-Suite. The theory is based on sheer statistics. Women win elections at the same rate as men, reports She Should Run. But often times, they aren’t encouraged to run and therefore are less represented.

Female Leadership in Corporate America

It’s arguably the same in corporate America. Women make up 44 percent of the overall S&P 500 labor force, but represent just 25 percent of all executive and senior-level officials and managers. This is likely because women aren’t encouraged to lead. The more women in leadership, the more other women are inspired to fight for a seat at the table.

The stock market itself has also seen a positive uptick in female diversity. The ETF HERS, a TSX ticker for the TSX ticker for the Evolve North American Gender Diversity Index ETF, debuted in Canada last fall and is available in hedged and unhedged versions. Similarly, the SHE ETF has attracted $319 million in assets since its launch in March 2016, and continues to prosper. It was recently traded at about $70.25 per unit, according to NASDAQ, and analysts see a 13.09% upside when looking through to average analyst targets of the underlying holdings.

Still, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the industry before women are truly treated as equals. There’s still somehow just one full-time female trader on the floor of the stock exchange. Lauren Simmons is also the only African American woman, and the youngest, at just 23 (also killing it). Plus, New York is home to 55 Fortune 500 companies. Just one of them has a female CEO. And as of April, the number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 list nation-wide dropped, from 27 to 24. The gender pay gap we discussed in an earlier blog isn’t much better.

But we’re confident that Fearless Girl and the awesome women of finance, like Cunningham, will continue to persevere and shape the industry into a more inclusive and progressive place.

Stay tuned for our next blog, where we sit down with Stephen Tisdalle, the mind behind Fearless Girl and State Street Global Advisors CMO.