KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
She has her hands on her hips, and her ponytail blows in the wind while she stares down Wall Street's "Charging Bull" in lower Manhattan. Her name is "Fearless Girl," and she has started a big debate since she was put in place by the financial services firm State Street. Some people see the little bronze statue as a symbol of female possibility. Other people say she's a patronizing gesture.
This week New York City announced "Fearless Girl" will stay put for at least another year. NPR's Rose Friedman reports.
ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Even the president and CEO of State Street couldn't resist a selfie with the statue.
RON O'HANLEY: I was one of those thousands of people that got my picture taken with my daughter.
FRIEDMAN: Ron O'Hanley says he understands why "Fearless Girl" has become a magnet for tourists and New Yorkers, too. Many say they admire the little girl's show of bravery.
O'HANLEY: For me, what I see is the future. I see a future in which young women can actually stand up and be part of everything, not just part of some things.
FRIEDMAN: State Street says it's not just for publicity. They had a whole suite of reasons for putting up the statue. It was around International Women's Day. It was also the first anniversary of an index fund they started to measure companies with women in leadership positions. Plus, they had made a decision to start actively promoting gender diversity at the companies they invest in.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and runs a think tank. She's written extensively about gender and the workplace, including on Wall Street. She says State Street has been more progressive than some of its competitors, but she doesn't like the symbolism of the statue.
SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT: Please don't depict American womanhood as a cute 9-year-old.
FRIEDMAN: Hewlitt would have preferred to see a woman who's accomplished something immortalized there.
HEWLETT: You know, we've done a lot of hard stuff, and there are many women out there who symbolize that. But the choice of portraying the fierce female as someone who is immature, as someone who hasn't tangled with the world is a little bit of a travesty in terms of where women are now at.
FRIEDMAN: Travesty or not, the statue has become a celebrity.
JUDITH NEWMAN: We are truly lost in a sea of selfie sticks.
FRIEDMAN: Judith Newman has written about the city for The New York Times and Vanity Fair. She's the kind of jaded New Yorker who usually avoids this area.
NEWMAN: Well, I get lost here as soon as I'm off the grid. I've only been here 30 years.
FRIEDMAN: Wall Street was so humming with people, it was almost hard to see the statue. The whole thing made her skeptical.
NEWMAN: She's tiny. Like, where's her mother?
FRIEDMAN: And she also wondered why the girl had to be so young.
NEWMAN: Other than the fact that obviously any New York woman would be too smart to be standing in front of a bull.
FRIEDMAN: But as we stood there, we kept seeing these happy little interactions.
NEWMAN: Oh, there's somebody rubbing her head presumably for good luck.
FRIEDMAN: And in the end, no matter how polarizing the statue is, it was hard to stay cranky surrounded by all those smiling people.
NEWMAN: People here seem to be really jazzed by this statue, right?
FRIEDMAN: They really did. Rose Friedman, NPR News, New York.
(SOUNDBITE OF ALICIA KEYS SONG, "SUPERWOMAN")
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