Brie Williams is Vice President, Head of Practice Management at State Street Global Advisors, where she is responsible for developing their comprehensive practice management platform. Her team provides actionable insights and consultative solutions to help financial advisors achieve their most important business objectives. Brie has over 21 years of experience with in-depth knowledge of retail markets and consumer behaviour.
“…We want the Fearless Girl to stay – not simply because of the potential she represents for the future, but because of the progress women are making right now…”
An extraordinarily fulfilling role
My path to the finance industry was not a direct one. In college, I was working toward a career in broadcast journalism and became side tracked by an irresistible opportunity to work in advertising. My very first assignment was for Frito-Lay and a country music platform with Reba McEntire.
About 12-years later the creative whirlwind took a new turn when I was bitten by wealth management bug – Putnam Investments was at a turning point in its history and I wanted to be a part of the brand repositioning. Fast-forward to 2017, I am in a new role with State Street Global Advisors leading a Practice Management team supporting the Global SPDR intermediary business. I find the work to be extraordinarily fulfilling – there are so many opportunities to put your hand up and embrace a new challenge.
I have the flexibility to work with a broad range of clients and colleagues, across geographies and industries. These experiences and assignments have challenged me in ways I never thought possible. Summing up a day-in-the-life is a tall order, but it comes down to relationship-based teamwork. Engagement drivers help us understand our impact and the perception of value – the hours fly by and the near immediate feedback loop continuously tests your views and allows you to problem solve in real-time.
Commissioning the statue of “Fearless Girl”
State Street Global Advisors commissioned this sculpture to create a visual representation that could accompany our call on the more than 3,500 companies across the US, UK and Australia that we invest in on behalf of our clients to take intentional steps to increase the amount of women on their corporate boards.
For us gender diversity isn’t just a matter of right and wrong – it’s a matter of performance, and it is a key issue for our corporate governance efforts this year. So, in the lead-up to International Women’s Day, we decided to give a face to this important issue.
We hoped that “Fearless Girl” would get the attention this issue deserves, but the overwhelming and positive response “Fearless Girl” received, not only in the US, but around the globe, has been inspirational.
Importantly, the sculpture has resonated as much with our male colleagues as with women, as they applaud the advocacy for the wives, sisters, daughters and other important females in their lives. We have received incredible support from people who are happy this conversation is finally happening in a public forum, from women who have experienced professional roadblocks due to their gender and people who simply hope to bring their daughters and granddaughters to see “Fearless Girl” so they can be inspired to follow their own dreams.
From five days to eleven months
Initially, we had a five-day permit for “Fearless Girl”, which was extended to one month after the incredible reception she received from visitors and supporters around the globe. We are honoured and thrilled that the City of New York has decided to make “Fearless Girl” a fixture until February 2018. We want the Fearless Girl to stay – not simply because of the potential she represents for the future, but because of the progress women are making right now.
Taking an active stewardship role in relation to the assets we manage
As the third largest asset manager in the world and a significant shareholder, we consider ourselves stewards of the assets we manage on behalf of our clients. The time has come for more companies to recognise that gender diversity – and all that diversity of thought brings to the table – is not only important, but essential to long-term corporate performance and to economic prosperity.
Academic research shows that men and women think, lead and solve problems differently. This difference in approach can lead to better decisions, greater innovation and potentially stronger business results. Dismissing gender diversity also means dismissing a potentially valuable investment opportunity. An MSCI [leading provider of investment decision support tools worldwide] study showed that companies with strong female leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1% per year versus 7.4% for those without such leadership, which is a 36.4% increase of average return on equity.
Taking a stand to create a culture of inclusion
Embracing diversity of thought is a business imperative. Our face should reflect the diversity of the community which we seek to serve. We can take a stand – with men, to create a culture of inclusion. We remain hopeful that we can have the tough conversations needed to drive the change – we are better together, and our future success depends on encouraging young girls and women to take their place in business leadership.
Activist Marian Wright Edelman said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And our Fearless Girl is a new symbol of women in leadership. Standing strong and confident for the promise and power of our next generation of industry talent, she is right where she belongs.