She's "standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what's right," said Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appeared with the "Fearless Girl" statue Monday on the lower Manhattan traffic island where the two bronze figures face each other.
The mayor said the political turmoil surrounding Republican President Donald Trump makes the endearing child particularly relevant.
"Sometimes a symbol helps us become whole and I think the Fearless Girl is having that same effect. She is inspiring everyone in a moment when we need inspiration," he said.
City workers installed the 4-foot tall pony-tailed statue on the eve of International Women's Day, positioning her in a face-to-face stance with the iconic Wall Street Bull.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, of New York, led a group of prominent women in front of City Hall to honor the artist, Kristen Visbal, and State Street Global Advisors, the asset management firm that commissioned the work and, with the McCann advertising firm, helped Visbal create her sculpture.
"She was created to bring attention to the courage and unrealized power of women in so many fields, and she has clearly struck a nerve," said Maloney, who is pushing for the statue to become a permanent installation.
Visbal said the positive response to her artwork "renewed my faith in sculpture to make an impact on society, to create a debate the way a good piece of art should."
She has received more than 1,000 emails from India, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and elsewhere, including one from a mother who wanted to wallpaper her daughter's room with the girl's image.
"I see men and women as the ying and yang of society," Visbal said. "They bring different things to the table. They solve problems in a different way. But we need to work together."
The fictional figure is linked to a very real message: Women make up only about 16 percent of U.S. corporate boards, according to the ISS Analytics business research firm.
"I think it's a great representation of women leadership and trying to appeal to women of all ages to continue to make contributions to business, finance, especially where we are standing now," Maloney said.
Artist Arturo Di Modica's bull arrived after the 1987 stock market crash as a symbol of Americans' financial resilience and can-do spirit. He wants the girl gone, calling the statue an "advertising trick" fashioned by two corporate giants, while his sculpture is "art."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)