Black Women in Technology Ecosystem
Note from BW of Brazil: Sometimes it’s mind-boggling when you actually analyze how far behind Brazil’s black population lags behind those who are considered or consider themselves white. Really. I mean, this goes beyond simply people reading about the exclusion of black people in Brazilian society. It’s like, every area that I take some time to contemplate, I look into and, once again, it’s easy to note the lack of black faces.
In reality, as an African-American, I’m quite accustomed to this. But as common as it still is to read about the first black this or that in the United States, when you really dig into, you see that the situation is far worse in Brazil. Literally. If the topic doesn’t involve futebol (football/soccer), funk, samba or Hip Hop, you’ll be hard pressed to find black presence in any random genre that matters in Brazil.
If you read Portuguese, just choose any random subject and see what you find. Politics? Primarily a struggle of white men of the left and white men of the right. This should come as no surprise when we consider that parties spend three times more funds on white candidates than non-white. The medical industry? Just ask any Brazilian how many black doctors who have treated them and this becomes pretty clear. Law? Black lawyers make up 1% of large law firms in the country. How about black CEOs of top companies? Only 4.7% are preto ou pardo (black or brown). If we only consider black women, the situation is even worse, with Rachel Maia being the only black woman CEO of a large company as of 2019. I haven’t checked recently, but I’m relatively certain this stat hasn’t changed lately. Architecture? Take a guess.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. If you believe I’m exaggerating in some way, feel free to do tjhe research yourself. But, with tech advances these days, we are living in a whole new world, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, technological advances have made our world signficantly different from the world we lived in just 10 years ago. But in terms of equal representation of blacks and browns in the tech world, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sure, we are beginning to see some color at the end of the rainbow but it still seems that there’s a ways to go before before we see a full range of Brazilian skin tones. Don’t call it complainin’…I’m just stating the facts.
How many black women do you know in the technology ecosystem?
In 120 years, according to the Polytechnic School of USP, the institution didn’t graduate 10 black women. There is lack of access, encouragement and representation.
By Thienne Czizewski
I’ll start by speaking in the first person: I grew up without referências profissionais negras (black professional references). I’m not alone in this story. According to the Instituto Locomotiva, 94% of the black Brazilian population does not feel represented in the media in general. The subservience of black women is historically the most realistic portrait, which reaffirms social and power relations within the systems. The place of speech is the possibility of dominating a space and discussing subjects, and it is minimal.
I had access to a quality education and criticality is part of my development – I read Sil Bahia and Nina Silva, I got closer to Djamila Ribeiro and I learned from Monique Evelle: “Black women needs to have a first and last name, if not the racism calls her whatever it likes.”
Attentive ears noticed the comments: “they are not like the others.” Together we are 27% of the population of the country, but why then do we count on our fingers those that reach a place of speech and representation?
Structural racism is a history of the present, which segregates and limits from basic education to the labor market. According to the Instituto PretaLab, mulheres afrodescentes (women of African descent) and low-income are the predominant profile of maids (57.6%).
Only 10.4% of black women in Brazil have completed earned a college degree. Society has created and naturalized the places of the black woman, and intellectuality is not one of them. Djamila Ribeiro brings the necessity of working in an interconnected way all forms of structured oppression: race, class and gender. Professional qualification is essential to mastering subjects and debating. Empowerment is a break from the inheritance of silencing. We are far from finding equality in opportunities and, consequently, in representation. We need to affirm the position of the thinking black woman in society.
I am an engineer by training, I work in the people area of a large technology company and I still observe the astonishment when they come across my social context when I introduce myself. The space I have today is a mirror for black women and girls to see themselves in a positive and successful way in the near future that is no longer utopian. Then comes the feeling of belonging to this environment.
Brazil has about 195 thousand technology companies and in them is portrayed the absence of black women, with their participation and productions made practically invisible. Positions and chairs previously blatantly denied are gradually occupied when we struggle and we are encouraged to assume the place of speech as a right.
But looking at the data we find an ecosystem in which only 15.53% of students entering computer-related courses are women (Inep/MEC 2013). Bringing to the context of market evasion, 41% of women who work with technology end up leaving the area, against 17% of men. How many of these women are black? There are no data on the presence of black women in the technology market in Brazil.
Going back one step and understanding the educational aspect, the relationship becomes clear. In 120 years, according to the Polytechnic School of USP, the institution didn’t graduate 10 black women. When we seek the pioneers of science in Brazil, none of the women cited in the CNPQ (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) is black. There is lack of access, encouragement and representation.
Bringing it to the day to day, how many black women do you know of the technology ecosystem in which their name comes to mind right away? Making a point of being aware of the facts, of the journey of history and its impacts is essential in order to act in an initial way for positive changes.
I invite you to this reflection, only in this text incredible black women were quoted. Do you know their work? How many books or articles of autoras negras (black authors) have you read? I encourage you to seek a new networking, seek to include and have a critical eye daily.
It is necessary to democratize the ecosystem of technology.
* Thienne was invited by Tech Power to write about her experience as a black woman in the technology industry. Tech Power is an initiative that seeks to increase female participation and leadership in the technological sector of Greater Florianópolis (capital of Santa Catarina state) through communication. The project was created by women working at Dialetto, a digital press and marketing consultancy specializing in technology. Learn more.
Source: NCS Total