Racial Inclusion in Companies Strengthens ESG Agenda

The importance of racial inclusion in the corporate environment has been highlighted on the ESG agenda

Jessé Freitas
Jessé Freitas


Racial Inclusion in Companies

Promoting racial inclusion in companies is part of today's ESG policies. The ESG agenda has become increasingly important and encompasses environmental, social, and governance best practices.

The diversity of perspectives and repertoires in the work team is considered a fuel for innovation and creativity. Not to mention that an environment where everyone is accepted in their essence favors motivation and productivity.

In a country like Brazil, which is predominantly black (according to IBGE data released this year, 56% of the population, which represents the sum of black and brown people), race is a criterion that is always at the top when talking about inclusion. But it is one thing to adopt a beautiful speech, in tune with an ESG (sustainability, social, and governance) agenda. It is quite another thing to actually promote inclusion at work.

A survey conducted by the multinational Delloitte, in 2021, with 215 companies, revealed that the inclusion theme has been gaining prominence. A total of 49% of the surveyed universe had an area dedicated to diversity and the same percentage (49%) had partnerships to put inclusion actions into practice, such as training and qualification, recruitment and selection, mental health programs, and others.

Also according to the survey, 81% said they maintain affinity groups in their companies to address issues related to diversity. Among these groups, the theme "race and ethnicity" occupied the second place, being present in 52% of the companies surveyed, the same percentage as the groups about people with disabilities. Both were second only to the groups about women, present in 62% of the companies.

The results of inclusion were seen as very promising. For 87% of those surveyed, diversity, equity, and inclusion actions bring benefits to the business. In addition, 84% responded that these initiatives generate business value; 81% said they contribute to innovation; 76%, that they improve workforce quality; and 69% said they increase retention.

In the month of Black Awareness (the actual day is celebrated on November 20, the anniversary of Zumbi dos Palmares' death), we give voice to our black employees. Nobody better than them to tell us about the obstacles they have faced or continue to face in the process of racial inclusion in society and, especially, in the corporate environment.

Jessé Freitas, CTO of levva
Jessé Freitas, CTO of levva

Inclusive Environment Powers Talent

As one of the founders of levva, CTO Jessé de Freitas, brought a particular look to the company.

"There is no way to separate my experience as an entrepreneur from my experience as a black man."

For more than 20 years working with technology, he has seen very few black people in this segment.

"We perceive situations of racism on a daily basis. It's not because you hold a certain position that you don't experience it."

With a teacher mother and lawyer grandmother, Jessé comes from a family that has always valued education. He believes that investing in education is the best way to overcome prejudice.

"I believe that education is the key to change. You won't change your background or race, but you can change your future."

As a businessman, he is fully aware of the gains that can be had with inclusion in the corporate environment, not only racial inclusion, but also inclusion of gender, sexual orientation, and other groups.

"Any evolution in the world has always needed many people, with different experiences and views. In the company, it is no different. Inclusion enhances our results."
Representation in the companies

Representativeness in the companies matters

The software engineer from Levva, Gabriel Rodrigues de Souza, says he was a point outside the curve in many of the places where he went. He attended federal university and was one of the only black students.

"I'm also peripheral, which was out of step with the majority in college."

In the companies where he worked or provided services in the technology area he was one of the few black people, if not the only one.

"I had no representativeness, in the sense of seeing other people and identifying with them. Unfortunately self-esteem and the ability to identify that we are technically prepared end up getting weakened."

Gabriel cites a racist situation he faced at one of the places where he worked. He was often questioned by other employees if he really belonged to the company. To overcome these approaches, he started to dress formally, even though the dress code of the majority was informal and cool.

"Generally, the manifestations of racism are not explicit, they come hidden behind some looks, situations of mistrust or distancing. It has happened several times that they didn't trust that I had the technical capacity to deal with a certain situation."

At Levva since March 2020, Gabriel says he now feels he is in a truly inclusive environment. He says that, during the selection interview, he talked to the recruiter about issues related to life, not only about technical matters.

"I realized there that the company and I had the same vision and that we would like to walk on the same tracks."
Representation in the companies

Inclusion is an opportunity for growth

A little over a month ago, Teresa Viana Alves Rodrigues started at Levva three years ago as the person responsible for cleaning. Inside the startup, she embraced the opportunities that were offered to her to grow professionally.

"I'm being trained, I've been learning a lot. This opportunity has made me very happy."

Teresa says she has experienced racism in several situations, but not at work.

"Levva makes it very clear that respect with others is something non-negotiable. I am black, evangelical, lower class. These issues may be problematic in the eyes of society, but I don't feel the same way in my work environment."

For a little over a year at Levva, front-end developer Christopher Alexandre also says he has never faced racism at work. He believes that situations like this must be seriously fought against.

"I think we should always report to the HR people and the board, especially, so that they don't repeat themselves. The workplace is where we create the most connections, like a second family. That's why it's important for companies to represent everyone who works there, not just one part."
Representation in the companies

Harassment and Bullying at Work

Quality Assurance Analyst (QA), Stephany Callegari is about to complete two years at Levva.

"Besides being black, I am from the LGBTQIA+ community and at levva I felt very comfortable to take that on. We had a Halloween party and I took my wife, who was treated very well by everyone."

It has not always been easy. In one of the jobs she had, Stephany suffered a manifestation of racism when she stopped straightening her hair, assuming her curly hair.

"My manager didn't like it, he said the new hair didn't match me. That hurt me a lot."

Cristian Macedo, today a technical leader, with one and a half years at Levva, also reports a negative experience in a company where he worked at the beginning of his career. When he entered the restricted access area of the company, he was always asked if he really should be there, even though he wore a badge with his professional identification.

"People with light skin and higher positions always approached me, even though they didn't have the role of controlling access."
cristian dev levva

Cristian was intimidated to report the situation, but a friend communicated it to the responsible department and the company ended up divulging an internal letter so that situations like this would not be repeated.

Diversity in the levva company

Diversity brings gains for the company

The benefits that inclusion brings to the company and to the team as a whole are many. Stephany believes that when you work in an environment that generates well-being and respect, productivity is greater.

"The company only stands to gain when we can show that we are human beings capable of helping it grow."

Cristian points out that, besides being important to employ people from different origins, races, and sexual options, it is necessary for companies to promote an environment where they can be heard. This is the only way to break prejudice and ingrained patterns, such as those that sustain structural racism in society.

"Everyone in the company wins, even personally, when we bring in other cultures. They start to get that click on language and behavioral vices that are offensive to certain social groups."
- Cristian's speech

For the company, believes Cristian, diversity brings a very big cultural gain in communication with the external world.

"For example, when you are going to make some marketing decision, you will have people actively contributing to refine that communication. It's not enough for the company to be inclusive if it doesn't consider the diverse views of the people who make up its staff."

Despite advances with inclusion policies, the representation of minority groups in leadership positions still leaves much to be desired. According to the multinational Delloitte survey, in the universe of 215 companies analyzed, 26% had less than 5% of leadership positions occupied by representatives of race and ethnicity, and in 56% of them there were no representatives of this group in the board of directors. This is certainly the next barrier to be overcome.


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