Upon first glance, it seems as though equality is respected in Brazil: women are 51% of the Brazilian population, and Brazil has elected a woman twice as president (the now-suspended Dilma Rousseff). It is actually quite difficult to completely understand the conditions for women in the workplace due to the lack of reliable studies on the subject. But the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics helps us gain a clearer picture as to how women are treated professionally:
Women receive 68% of men’s salaries (this plummets to 35% if a woman is either black or multiracial);
In 2010, women headed 22 million households, which represents 38.7% of the population (in 2000, that number was 50% smaller);
From 2000 to 2010, the average minimum wage for men grew from 1,450 BRL to 1,510 BRL (+4.1%). Over the same period, female wages went from 925 BRL to 1,115 BRL (+13,5%);
71% of all workers making less than one-quarter of the minimum wage are women;
In Brazil, women fulfill domestic work for about 22 hours per week, whereas men spend about 9.5 hours a week on chores;
In 2005, 20% of women living in São Paulo were unemployed;
Brazil is the largest employer of housemaids in the world (7,2 million women, and 56.7% of them are black women);
In 2014, there was a 49% increase in the number of female entrepreneurs;
70% of firms in Brazil have no women on their board of executives; only 2.6% of Administration Councils have a woman (Ministry of Labor 2013)
Sexism in daily life:
I am French, and my country is not exactly the greatest example concerning male/female equality. Working in a macho environment, I have already become used to sexist jokes, although a few things particularly caught my attention upon my arrival in Brazil. The first one was the “head of Family” notion. Indeed, Brazil has a very patriarchal culture, and this is something that translates into your professional life as a woman. Male bosses are regarded by their teams as father figures.
Since March, Brazilian men have gained the right to a 20-day paternity if they fulfill a series of difficult requirements – otherwise, they receive only five days! This diminishes their role as parents. The law should also work towards establishing equality between genders, rather than solely concerning wages and salaries.
In Brazil, it is fairly common to be told that something “is not a woman’s job.” Furthermore, there are also different adjectives and qualities for men and for women. It is normal for a man to be straight and direct while a woman behaving in the same manner will be considered aggressive.
Appearance is very important in Brazil, even more so for women, and they focus much effort into looking good on a daily basis. Unfortunately, women are frequently judged based on their appearance rather than on competence. Usually, a female executive must not only be a high performer in her job, but attractive as well.
Recently, Brazil’s leading weekly magazine Veja featured a story on Acting President Michel Temer’s wife. Marcela Temer looked radiant, in a dress with a high neckline and a shawl dangling from her elbows. The photo itself had nothing wrong it, but the headline published alongside it had Brazilians going wild on social media. It read: Marcela Temer – Beautiful, prudish, and a housewife. Since then, many women across Brazil have used this expression to show support for feminism, adding this quote to their profile pictures.
While conducting business in Brazil, I have experienced episodes of sexism. I once invited business partners to a restaurant, but they didn’t allow me to pay because I was a woman. It didn’t matter that I was the one inviting them, and that it was a business function.
In 2010, Brazil elected Dilma Rousseff as the country’s first female president, which might be regarded as a major advance – even though, in my opinion, her gender appeared to be one of the many reasons for her suffering through the impeachment process.
As I mentioned previously, Brazil has a very patriarchal culture – yet the number of women designated as head of the family has increased in recent years. The phenomenon could be explained by the high number of single mothers. Moreover, the new law allowing for 20 days of paternity leave helps men become more involved with their children and also increases their role in household chores.
Furthermore, the increase of female entrepreneurs shows a clear emancipation of women in Brazil (+49% in 2014). Finally, we also noticed in the last few years the development of professional networks for women, such as PWN (Professional Woman Network); “Para mulheres na ciência” (For Women in Science); “Network of Executive Woman”, and “Portal Mulher Executiva” (Executive Woman Portal), as well as the winning of international contests by Brazilians like the Prize of the Visionary Woman of the year in 2015, won by Camilia Achutti at just 23 years old.
The world knows that French women love their independence, so it can be a difficult transition when first arriving in Brazil. I do not want to change the amazing culture of this beautiful country, and I know that also big changes are not possible overnight, but we can clearly see room for some improvements regarding gender inequality in Brazil. And the fact that women unite to show their desire for more equality brings a bright perspective to the country.