Fearless Girl Stands Firm
For the past few weeks I’ve kept a newspaper clipping on my desk about “Fearless Girl.” She’s the statue commissioned by State Street Global Advisors to “celebrate the power of women in leadership and the potential of the next generation of women leaders.” When I look at her I can’t help but think of the “fearful girl” who started her own business 36 years ago. Me.
Designed as a temporary installation in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8th), the statue was scheduled to be removed April 2 but the overwhelming public response caught City Hall’s attention.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week the decision to extend the Fearless Girl’s stay in Bowling Green Park, across from Wall Street’s “Charging Bull.” She’ll remain there until the next International Women’s Day, on March 8, 2018.
The Mayor called the statue a symbol of “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.”
When I started my business in 1981, there was no Fearless Girl statue to inspire me and only a handful of women, fearless or otherwise, to look up to as role models. There wasn’t even a Charging Bull to defiantly stare down (the sculpture was installed in 1989 to symbolize American resilience after the 1987 stock market crash).
But in 2017 we have The Girl vs. The Bull. A David vs. Goliath pairing (and we know who won that contest...).
And I'm guessing it was that, the idea of always being in a contest with men and power, an endless take-no-prisoners-competition, that gave me pause every time I looked at that little girl.
I was at my sister’s house recently helping her to sort through furniture, papers, photos, and “stuff” as she was preparing to downsize and move from her big family home. Looking at all those beautiful things and memories – many headed for the consignment shop and trash – I blurted out, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live our lives backwards. If we could see how things played out.”
...If we knew in advance which of the “stuff” that consumed our days, thoughts and financial resources would one day end up on the trash heap.
...If we could know with certainty which battles were worth fighting for...and those that weren’t.
...If we could calculate the true cost for remaining on the fast track, walking away from a challenge, succeeding at any price.
Fearless Girl, be fearful.
Charging Bull, slow down.
The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle (isn't it always).
Fear drove me to succeed, to do well by the people who were counting on me. It still does. When channeled correctly, it can serve to build inner strength, not diminish it.
Fear is my reminder that I don’t have all the answers all the time and that I might have to rely on others (even men/bulls...).
I’ve noticed in my long career that “the pros” are always nervous, “fearful” in a good way. That’s because they don’t want to disappoint, they care deeply about the quality of their deliverable, whatever that might be.
In our fast paced, technology-fueled business environment, charging full-speed-ahead is expected, even demanded. But this bull-in-a-china-shop approach is the reason we are seeing so much bad decision-making...so many clueless leaders...so many knee-jerk reactions to social media trends. The pace is exhausting. The outcome, disappointing.
So Fearless Girl, thanks for standing guard and inspiring business women everywhere. You are a fetching symbol that’s easy to understand and tempting to embrace. I hope your girlish fearlessness helps you to “stand up to power and find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.” You’ll need to be strong as you mature and face life’s Big Questions and Challenges.
Just know that sometimes it’s OK be fearful (but never OK to be afraid).