Prejudice with motherhood still prunes executives
- June 17, 2022
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To reach the position of vice-president of the Brazilian multinational technology company CI&T and of a member of the boards of directors of Telephone / Vivo and gives locamericaSolange Sobral not only had to cross extra barriers for being a woman and black, but also for being a mother and working in a predominantly male area, that of technology.
Motherhood and the sector of activity are two of the major obstacles that women face and, in many cases, stagnate the trajectory of executives, according to experts.
“When you go to some sectors, such as technology or finance, and, within these areas, you choose the ‘core business’ (main activity), the number of women becomes increasingly rare. And it becomes increasingly difficult for you to ascend in this environment”, says Solange.
Insper professor Ana Diniz explains that the reduced participation of women in areas considered more strategic is a consequence of the sexual division of knowledge. If, before, women stayed at home taking care of their children and, after breaking this first barrier, they became teachers and nurses, now it is practically natural that the logic of care continues to be reproduced.
Chief Financial and Investor Relations Officer TIM, Camille Loyo Faria is one of the few women in the country who broke this logic. Graduated in Chemical Engineering, she made her career in the financial sector. As a young woman, she felt that her different outlook bothered most male teams. “I also heard that she had reached a certain position because she was having an affair with her boss. They wanted to say that she had no competence.”
Today, Camille says she feels respected in the workplace, but believes that women who grew up in areas perceived to be more feminine may have felt more comfortable with their teams.
“When you’re surrounded by different people, there can be less empathy. I don’t think an HR professional has less difficulty than I do, but it’s easier to deal with difficulties when you have colleagues who have the same experiences.”
Executive Vanessa Lobato, vice president of retail at Santander, says he does not know another woman who occupies a similar position in the Brazilian banking market. Vanessa started her leadership trajectory as a bank manager, was a superintendent and ended up migrating to the human resources directorate – before becoming vice president of retail.
“It’s as if women were more allowed to develop in the areas of support. It’s an unconscious bias. It’s as if the woman is less able to handle numbers and delivery and more able to handle contexts. What nonsense”, says the executive, who leads 30,000 people.
Vanessa recognizes that, in charge of retail, most of the board that reports to her is made up of men, unlike what happened when she was in the HR area. In her current position, she has worked for her teams to genuinely buy into the diversity agenda and has not missed opportunities to change the face of leadership.
“When a (director’s) chair is empty, we have to look for someone with an eye for diversity. I’m not going to go around firing men, but we have to have the courage to take affirmative action,” she adds. “Eight years ago, if you asked me to a diversity meeting, I might not have come. But I had the privilege of studying the subject, of looking at my life and realizing how much machismo I’ve faced. I’ve been in a room with men who pretended I wasn’t there, but at the time, I didn’t even realize it.”
For Solange, director of Telefónica and Locamerica, projects that encourage women to immerse themselves in technology and that show the perspectives they can bring to these sectors can help to increase the female presence in strategic areas.
Giving space to women at events, telling their stories, is also important, she says. “I’m sure that behind much of the history of tech companies, there are women making a difference. There are few, and they do not appear. But this is a way for other women to see what is possible.”
The director of government relations at Mulheres do Brasil (a group that works to defend women’s interests and is led by businesswoman Luiza Trajano, from Magazine Luiza), Lígia Pinto, recognizes that in some areas, such as engineering, there are fewer women being formed. Hence the need, even in the early stages of school, to make girls aware that they can be wherever they want.
“Men and women are different and exercise leadership in different ways, but it is necessary to know, from childhood, that the discourse that men wear blue and women, pink is very serious. Girls also need to be included in robotics classes”, says Ligia, also a teacher at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV).
Motherhood is pointed out by executives as one of the biggest barriers to ascension. According to Margareth Goldenberg, executive manager of Mulher 360 (a business movement that works for female empowerment and gender equity), it is more common for women to reach leadership when they have no children.
This means that many have to give up personal ambitions to be executives. “It’s not fair that they have to choose. The barriers of motherhood are immense in the professional development journey. Therefore, companies need to adopt welcoming practices such as flexible hours.”
Ligia Pinto, from Grupo Mulheres do Brasil, says that, in a job for a large consultancy, she observed that the women on the list of the ten main candidates to become partners in the company did not have children. Candidates with children appeared at the bottom of a ranking of 40 professionals.
This was because the methodology adopted to analyze future partners considered the revenue that the professionals had managed to generate in 12 years. Women who had taken maternity leave had zero earnings for four or eight months, depending on the number of children they had.
“They did not take into account the period of leave. When the period of maternity leave was disregarded, these women climbed the rankings and really entered the race for the position of partner. This issue of motherhood is structural, but this example shows how much even the standard of evaluation can be sexist”, says Lígia.
Professor of people management at FGV, Vanessa Cepellos says that many women end up being forced to leave their jobs when they have children and, when trying to return to the market, they realize that their skills have become obsolete. For those who manage to stay at work, it is common for them to be poorly evaluated by superiors because they have to share attention with domestic obligations.
In the case of Solange Sobral, professional advancement and motherhood were only possible because she had the opportunity to discuss with her bosses, before her leave, what her return would be like. Solange also says that the support of her mother and husband was fundamental.
“I had the privilege of having partners and children who understood that, at times, I would not be present because, in order to feel complete, I also had a professional side.”
The information is from the newspaper. The State of São Paulo.