Note from BW of Brazil: The issue of affirmative action in Brazil has been a decade long debate with strong pro-quota supporters and equally strong nay-sayers. And while the weak arguments of those who vehemently oppose the system have been utterly demolished by the success of recent students and graduates, in some ways it seems that these debates are simply being used as a smokescreen to mask a problem that many seem to want to avoid or ignore: blacks are vastly under-represented in nearly every area of Brazilian society, that is if you don’t count the appalling statistics of murders and poverty. Although it may be true that black Brazilians have entered the middle class and college classrooms in record numbers over the past decade, to really kick the idea of diversity into high gear, Brazil may want to consider what the Norwegians did in addressing the unequal numbers of women in boardrooms. The results were stunning. Check the story…
Norwegian women, black Brazilians and the business world
By Paulo Nogueira
What do you do when a section of society is miserably represented on the boards of companies?
At one point, it was clear that women were being discriminated against in executive positions. There were few, ridiculously few women, even in one of the best countries in the world to be a woman. In the words of one local authority, it was the “paradoxo norueguês (Norwegian paradox)”.
(Scandinavia, if you search listings, is one of the best countries for all sorts of people – Men, women, immigrants, etc. It is no wonder that the mission of DCM (1) is fighting for a Scandinavian Brazil)
Well, what was done there pertaining to the fact: In 2004, a quota for women on boards of corporations was created. Four out of ten directors would have to be women. All in the competent, Nordic way: reasonable deadlines and the like.
There was the predictable corporate alarmist clamor that you would expect in these situations: companies will down break, said opponents of the project. Along with the screams ensued a resistance to change on the issue of female quotas. Two years after the creation of the law, women held only 18% of management positions.
Then the government decided to act with rigor: if corporations do not quickly reach the 40% they could be simply shut down. In 2009, all companies had met the quota. After almost a decade, the Norwegian model is the model for Europe, and the doomsday predictions proved preposterous.
Full of women in executive positions, Norwegian companies are doing very well.
I tell this story after seeing in Exame magazine, that only 5% of management positions in Brazilian companies are held by blacks. It is not a humiliation for blacks – but for the society as a whole. It shows how racist we are, despite the pats on the back that we give our black friends.
It’s time to act.
Expecting Brazilian companies to move is useless. The secret of the Norwegian success was the fact that the 40% is mandatory, not optional. What was done for women in Norway to correct a corporate injustice should be done for blacks in Brazil.
We are shocked when we saw that blacks live so much less than whites and in conditions so abjectly inferior. It’s brutal the proportion of blacks among the victims of murders in Brazil, as shown by several studies. None of that is immutable. No improvement is impossible.
One step to reduce the black drama in Brazil would be to force companies to have a quota for blacks in board of directors. Oh, there are no blacks with sufficient training for this?
So maybe Brazil will finally to the need to provide high level free education to it underprivileged – a major part of which consists of blacks.
Source: Diário do Centro do Mundo
1. Diário do Centro do Mundo