Myths and prejudices: Afro-Brazilians make up only 3.5% of heads of Brazil’s largest companies

black women Brazil

Lia Maria dos Santos is an economist and a plastic artist. She is currently unemployed but says she does a lot of interviews

Myths and prejudices

Priscilla Borges of iG Brasília

Changing the trajectory of blacks in the labor market will take a long time. The 122 that separate the country from the time when they were slaves have not been not been enough to put them near the white population in the labor market. The most recent data plotting this scenario is 2008.

That year, various surveys show that blacks continued to occupy less senior positions and more jobs for less qualified work. According to the Ethos Institute and Ibope, only 3.5% of Afro-Brazilian workers were heads of Brazil’s largest companies.

The social, racial and gender profile of the 500 largest companies in Brazil and Affirmative Action, done two years ago, revealed that whites occupied 94% of executive positions. The research is part of a series that was also conducted in 2003 and 2005, the results of showed little improvement in the participation of blacks in positions of leadership: from 1.8% in the first study to 3.5%. in 2007.

In the conclusions of the study, researchers show an “imbalance” between the representation of Afro-Brazilians descent in the population (49.5%) and the staffs of these large companies (25.1%). “There is a clear under-representation of blacks in large Brazilian companies. As in the case of women, there is a bottleneck hierarchy: the higher the position, the lower the participation of black people”, wrote the authors of the publication.

Lia Maria dos Santos, 30, has faced innumerous prejudices, even being the daughter of public employees of the Itamary (Ministry of External Relations). “It clicks (with people) that racism exists when one realizes the discrimination in the way they look at you in the store or the mall for no reason,” she says. Leah lived in Africa as a child and in Cuba as a teenager.

A plastic artist that graduated from University of Brasilia, Lia also studied economics, she is also studying for a Master’s Degree in public policy in the area of education for black women, speaks several languages and has also served as a consultant. At the moment, she is unemployed. She has participated in several job interviews since returning from a program of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

“I came to Brazil and went to work in telemarketing earning R$1500 (per month). I stayed there one week and left. It was no use”, she laments. Lia gives lectures at schools and organizations in an attempt to break the barriers of prejudice and show that differences exist. “For us to break barriers, it is necessary to confront the myths and prejudices.”


Danielle Valverde, an education specialist of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Brazil and the Southern Cone, said that racism structures social relations in Brazil. “It persists beyond slavery. When we get the statistics, we find inequalities in education, economic status, and health. In the labor market, blacks have less prestigious jobs and receive lower wages.”

A study released in 2008 by the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies (Departamento Intersindical de Estatística e Estudos Socioeconômicos – Dieese) points out that in the last four years, there was very little growth in the number of blacks in positions of leadership and management. In 2004, the indice was 5.7%. In 2008, it went to 6%.

In Salvador, where the black population is the majority (85% of the economically active population), whites occupy three times more command posts than blacks. Most black workers are in jobs that don’t require qualification.

For the UNIFEM specialist, it is necessary to combine different actions to change the reality: to punish the crimes of racism and adopt universal policies. “Affirmative actions are instituted by different countries as a solution to provide opportunities for access to education, health and work to populations historically discriminated against. If they were in fact state policies, this inequality would decrease”, says Danielle.

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About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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