NEW YORK, April 19 (Reuters) - The bronze statue of a little girl that became a tourism phenomenon by staring down Wall Street's massive "Charging Bull" sculpture is to be moved to a nearby spot where its stern gaze will be on the male-dominated New York Stock Exchange, city officials said on Thursday.
"Fearless Girl," whose message is for a bigger role for women in corporate America and whose appearance in lower Manhattan on the eve of International Women's Day last year sparked a social media sensation, will be moved by the end of 2018, officials said.
"She is a powerful symbol of the need for change at the highest levels of corporate America — and she will become a durable part of our city's civic life," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
Although the diminutive 50-inch (127-cm) statue was originally intended to be planted in front of the "Charging Bull" for only a week in March 2017, the city extended its stay by another 11 months after an outpouring of support.
The planned move, which officials said was prompted in part by traffic safety concerns, will place "Fearless Girl" in a pedestrian-only area at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, the site of George Washington's inauguration in 1789 as the country's first president, where it will face the NYSE.
"We eagerly await the arrival of Fearless Girl to her fitting new home, standing her ground and training her unblinking eyes on our engine of progress and free enterprise,” NYSE President Thomas Farley said in a statement.
The statue was originally part of a gender diversity campaign by State Street Global Advisors, a subsidiary of State Street Corp, which said last year that 25 percent of the largest 3,000 U.S. companies have no female directors.
Since the appearance of "Fearless Girl," more than 150 companies have added a woman to their boards, State Street Global Advisors President Cyrus Taraporevala said.
The firm has had its own gender-related issues, agreeing to pay $5 million last October to settle U.S. Labor Department allegations that it underpaid female and black executives. It also opted not to use its equity clout last year in seven of eight shareholder resolutions to enhance boardroom diversity.
"Fearless Girl" is not without detractors, including Arturo Di Modica, who objected to the placement in front of his “Charging Bull."
Although city officials said they are looking into moving "Charging Bull" as well, Di Modica's lawyer, Norman Siegel, said the sculptor would need to give his permission, and has yet to be contacted about it. (Reporting by Peter Szekely Editing by Frances Kerry)