NEW YORK: The iconic charging bull statue in New York's financial district now faces a new statue of a "fearless girl", which was placed opposite it on the eve of International Women's Day to highlight gender inequality on corporate boards.

McCann New York and State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), one of McCann's clients, placed the diminutive statue overnight and it depicts a little girl fearlessly staring down the bull with her hands on her hips.

Adweek reported that the stunt is meant to symbolise the power of women in leadership and is part of a wider SSGA campaign that is calling on 3,500 companies that work with SSGA to increase the number of women they employ at board level.

"We believe good corporate governance is a function of strong, effective and independent board leadership," said Ron O'Hanley, President and CEO of SSGA.

"A key contributor to effective independent board leadership is diversity of thought, which requires directors with different skills, backgrounds and expertise," he continued.

"Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action."

SSGA pointed to a study, conducted by research firm MSCI, which suggested that companies with sufficient women in leadership positions generated a return on equity of 10.1% per year compared with just 7.4% among those companies who employ fewer women in top roles.

Although women have made some headway in progressing through the glass ceiling, SSGA also said that one out of four companies on the Russell 3000 Index still don't have a single woman on their board.

As for the "fearless girl" statue, it is expected to remain in place in lower Manhattan for at least a week, although McCann said it is negotiating with the city authorities to see if it can remain longer. After all, the charging bull statue was initially installed without permission back in 1989.

Data sourced from Adweek; additional content by Warc staff