When we are faced with Diversity & Inclusion, nothing is more sensitive than the tiny barrier between segregating equals to include the unequal. I will emphasize just one aspect of diversity in this article, and they are not gender, age, religion, or political ideology. As you may know, Brazilian people are a complete mix of ethnicities. As it is a continental country, there are regions with a predominance of European colonies, but, in general, Brazilian natives are a mixture of all colonization and a legacy of the enslavement of black people.
When we look at employment data in Brazil, we can summarize this legacy in real numbers, showing a huge difference between the white and black/brown population in terms of education (+78% of whites with higher education), average salary (+72 % white), percentage of the unemployed population (+44% black/brown). The question is - is it a historical condition? How do we deal with this bias and how long will it take to even out these numbers?
Recently, a major retailer moved to contribute to, what its CEO called, “historical reparation”. The company opened a Trainees Program, to which only black people can apply. Almost instantly, it became a trending topic among the HR communities, reaching the mass media with the controversial subject. “Is the program a way to remedy racism, or is as racist as it sounds when it closes the door on anyone outside of that audience?” Social media was divided between those who loved the program and those accusing the company of reverse racism.
“Diversity and inclusion should never start by excluding anyone.”
The case ended up in court, alleging biased marketing with the sole aim of creating trends around the brand. And it happened. But the court decision was favourable to the company. In her defence, the CEO publicly said that the Trainees Program is her contribution to repairing Brazilian history and its legacy of discrimination.
The question is, should employers assume the government's role in equalizing job opportunities, whether by race, gender, age or any other aspect they can use to narrow down the list of potential candidates in a hiring program?
If we delve deeper into this theme, we will have to look in Brazilian history for the reasons that justify the enormous difference between blacks and whites in terms of opportunities, average family income, and access to university, among other aspects. Knowing that one thing is a consequence of the other. There are so many factors that contribute to this gap that it is impossible to explain it in a simple and direct way. It is a cyclical condition - lower family income, less access to private basic education, the need to start working earlier, especially in underemployed conditions can explain this endless cycle of black people living in worse conditions compared to other ethnicities. But if the lack of opportunities for better education is the main reason, then why are whites, who also lack access to private education, able to develop better careers in the future? In my opinion, no employer should take responsibility for leveraging one over the other. We have to guarantee the same conditions for each and every one of our employees to grow within the business, considering their effort, their commitment and the desire to be even better. Diversity and inclusion should never start by excluding anyone.