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Discrimination is the act of treating a person or group of people differently or unfairly because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability or other factors. It can manifest itself in many ways, including denial of rights and opportunities, access to goods and services or even physical or psychological violence.
Of all its challenges, I think it is important to highlight how discrimination can impact a person's personal, educational and professional development.
Discrimination needs to be thought about and discussed both globally and locally, and with stories and solutions that go beyond the Global North. Presenting some data from Brazil helps us to understand the differences from country to country; although it happens in all parts of the world, discrimination occurs in different ways and with different groups of people. The local context is important, and needs to be respected and taken into consideration when deciding strategies for change. Whatever the discriminated and excluded group, they all suffer from some kind of lack of opportunity, which creates a huge waste of talent and social inequality around the world.
Discrimination needs to be thought about and discussed both globally and locally, and with stories and solutions that go beyond the Global North.
As founder and Executive Director of Instituto Identidades do Brasil (ID_BR), a pioneering non-profit organisation 100% committed to accelerating the promotion of racial equality, I have direct experience of the types of discrimination we face in Brazil: structural, institutional and environmental.
They occur in an open way on a daily basis, especially for minority groups, veiled by the white privilege that society insists on naturalising. Men; whites; heterosexuals; cis-gender; those without disabilities; the people in power in governments and companies; the majority still have difficulty recognising their privileges, and find their almost exclusive occupation of the highest positions something trivial yet deserved. This needs to be dismantled for Brazil to progress, economically and socially.
Through our "Yes to Racial Equality Campaign” (Campanha Sim à Igualdade Racial), we develop actions in different formats to raise awareness and engage organisations and society. We seek to reduce racial inequality in the labour market, as aspired to in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities.
I am not proud of the fact that we are at the top of the ranking of countries that kill the most LGBTQIAPN+ people. Despite considerable advances in recent years with public policies, private initiatives and the partnership between the two to promote racial and social programmes, we are still far from the ideal of zero discrimination. Especially when the subject is race and ethnicity.
In Brazil, 56% of the population self-declares to be black. We have a national census, taken by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), that allows us to collect, analyse and understand data on the educational reality, financial situation and opportunities and access between different groups. Censuses that collect data on ethnicity are not yet a reality in every country, which can hinder the analysis of statistical data to help promote change.
Read more on the Forum Network: The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Transform Individuals and Organisations, by Robert Livingston, Lecturer in Public Policy, Faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School
What is racism? Why should everyone be more concerned about it? What can we do to eradicate it? Robert Livingston addresses these three simple but profound questions.
The IBGE gives us some important and alarming information: in 2019, for example, one of the surveys pointed out that the average salary of black workers was 45% lower compared to whites. The same survey shows that among black women the situation is even worse, with their average salary 70% lower than white women.
It is important to point out that in Brazil we have a decree called the Consolidation of Labor Laws (Consolidação das Leis do Trabalho, or CLT), with an article that requires equal salaries without distinction of sex, nationality or age. But the data—and I emphasise again how important it is to have them—show an enormous inequality between whites and blacks in the labour market when the subject is income and unemployment. Three major problems make up a great part of these indicators: inequalities, racial prejudice and lack of opportunity.
Research from job sites in Brazil still shows that only 0.7% of the most senior positions in companies are held by blacks. Among the 500 largest companies in the country, black people occupy only 4.7% of the leadership positions.
Besides the black population, we also have an indigenous population that experiences persistent discrimination. Currently, the self-declared indigenous population corresponds to more than 896,000 Brazilians throughout the country (0.4% of the population). Many people face challenges in terms of access to health, education, land and natural resources, in addition to suffering discrimination and prejudice from society; the situation is even more serious for indigenous women, who also face gender and sexual discrimination. Public policies designed to protect and support them are insufficient or are inadequately implemented, which leads to a cycle of exclusion and discrimination.
When we talk about the labour market, indigenous people have even less access to leadership positions. According to the Ethos Institute, among the 500 largest companies to work for in Brazil, in the Administrative and Executive Councils, the indigenous population does not have any representatives; in the Management and Supervisory positions, we find only 0.1% of indigenous people represented. The highest rate of insertion is in the young apprentice range, with 0.4%. In all, indigenous people represent 1% of the workers allocated to the largest corporations in the country.
Just as we have the COP to discuss climate issues, we need to establish a common agenda to discuss inclusion in the labour market.
We believe in the promotion of inclusion through the implementation of affirmative action, public policies aimed at underrepresented groups and training leaders to be allies. Public-private initiatives also have the power to accelerate this process, and can contribute a lot by opening up spaces, rethinking their diversity and inclusion policies, leveraging internal and external projects or helping to raise awareness among many other possibilities. Educational initiatives that work to include underrepresented groups in the labour market have the potential to strengthen the fight against discrimination, for example by challenging negative perceptions that may deny them work opportunities.
I am an advocate of a common agenda for discussion on this issue. What can we do together to close this gap? What issues are intersectional when we talk about discrimination? What can the public and private sectors do about it? How can governments work together to stop the waste of talent around the world?
Just as we have the COP to discuss climate issues, we need to establish a common agenda to discuss inclusion in the labour market. This would help accelerate the process, not only by identifying points of intersection to improve and exchange good practices, but also by promoting the diversity of cultures and nationalities working together for a common good: the end of discrimination.
Ensuring that countries are equipped to make the most of diversity by fully utilising all talent among diverse populations and promoting inclusive labour markets is a key challenge. Learn more on how they can do so with the OECD's report 'All Hands In? Making Diversity Work for All'
And check out also the OECD report How’s Life in Latin America? Measuring Well-being for Policy Making