Maite Schneider: “D&I is not a finish line, it is a path that organizations decide to follow”
Leading diversity and inclusion consultant Maite Schneider is co-founder of Transempregos, Brazil's largest talent bank for transgender professionals. In this interview, Ms. Schneider takes us through the story behind TransEmpregos, analyzes rising corporate investment in D&I policies within the Brazilian economy and explains what is needed to increase diversity at the very top of Brazil's largest companies, among other topics.
Leaders League: TransEmpregos is the leading talent bank of transgender professionals in Brazil and today currently has over 1200 partner companies. What is the story behind TransEmpregos and what are your main goals as an organization?
Maite Schneider: TransEmpregos recently reached its 1230th partner company. We work on three fronts: the first is to be the most comprehensive database for companies. The second is to teach companies how to eliminate any stigmas and biases with regards to prejudice and gender identity. The third is aimed at companies which have previously hired us, and whose values, culture, and purpose we are already familiar with, thus allowing us to assist them in more than just employment projects. The largest companies start out by increasing diversity and creating more inclusive environments based on employability, as after all, we are in a capitalist system. But employability is only one way for us to create a more diverse and plural environment, portraying the x-ray of our society as it truly is. When we are well-acquainted with companies and social movements, we can help take them to the next level.
According to a recent survey by Mais Diversidade, 97% of Brazilian companies plan to maintain or increase their D&I investments in 2021. Has there been a greater corporate demand for D&I consultancy in 2021 if compared to previous years? What are the main D&I demands which your clients have today?
200 partner companies have joined TransEmpregos over the last two months. Hence, demand is currently very accelerated. Moreover, these new projects are more mature and consolidated. When we started at TransEmpregos seven years ago, companies didn't understand why they were implementing D&I processes, they were just copying their competitors. Today there is a broader corporate understanding.
There are no specific guidelines for project implementation. We follow a different approach in each company, depending on the cultural and organizational identity. We must follow this principle in order to build something which is institutionally coherent and which will be maintained, not something which will be discarded once we turn our backs. D&I is not a finish line. It is a path that an organization decides to follow. A plan of action with indexes and metrics must be established, with the monitoring of these figures to ensure the plan is achieving its goals, and, if it isn’t, to identify where the gaps are and where the bottlenecks lie.
The first step is identifying company staff. When you ask how many people over 60 there are in the company, the answer is ‘just a few’. But once a survey is conducted, employees are shocked. Brazil is a rapidly aging country. Managers start to worry when they take a closer look at their numbers and realize they have no diversity initiatives in place aimed at existing minorities in their workplace. In light of this, they must adapt their existing programs, such as trainee, internship, and young apprentice programs, to strengthen their initiatives at a micro level and seek to leverage their macro results by focusing precisely on their staff and network of suppliers.
200 partner companies have joined TransEmpregos over the last two months
Presently, there are few transgender people in positions of leadership within Brazil's largest companies. How can we increase the inclusion of transgender professionals in the country's labor market?
Leaders are essentially male, white, straight, cisgender and with no disabilities. So leadership is ruled by a minority, right? A minority which considers itself privileged, precisely for being in these positions of power, dictating the rules. They are C-Levels, and they sit on the deliberative councils. What we must do is to truly break this rule. If a company requires two managers, then one of them must be a woman. If there isn’t one at the company, hire one externally.
Companies must also adequately train employees, create stimulating career plans, and qualify their staff. Companies must do this with black staff, trans people, LGBTQIA+ people, migrants and over 50s. All groups must have access to these tools. We must open up market competitiveness for people to have a level playing field and equal opportunities to reach and climb these positions. This is what will increase inclusion in the labor market.
How can the corporate, legal, and financial markets do more for inclusion? And how can LGBTQIA+ community allies help reduce the obstacles which still exist for trans professionals?
Following the same path as everyone else. These markets are not so different. We actually worked with these markets, thinking they would be much more conservative but, in reality, they are significantly ahead when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We are partners with the most renowned law firms, financial institutions, and insurance companies. As incredible as it sounds, the three worst industries for inclusion, at least on a partnership basis with TransEmpregos, and bear in mind we provide pro bono services, are the automotive, real estate, and advertising and marketing industries. They seem very laid-back but these are industries that deal with B2C and C2C, well, they struggle with these issues. Even the most evolved company in D&I still has a lot to do. As I mentioned, it is not a finish line but a chosen path. Therefore, it is fundamental to include D&I in the company's DNA. Not only in the marketing, social responsibility and recruitment departments of the company. It must exist in the onboarding, be remembered in organizational surveys, and always be thought about, analyzed, reviewed, and reevaluated in annual action plans.
Allies can assist by increasing the inclusiveness of their environment and providing psychological safety, where people can be themselves. Therefore, if you hear jokes, don’t let them continue, but instead call them out. Remembering Angela Davis: "In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist." This quote can be applied to homophobia. We need to fight intolerance and discrimination in everyday life. If you are an ally, you can also empower. There are people who are very hungry for education and information. You can teach Excel, Word, English, and create a collaborative system, a society in which people are helpful and understand that, for a truly good world to exist, besides being good for me personally, it must also be great for the people around me.
We need to fight intolerance and discrimination in everyday life
What new initiatives can we expect from TransEmpregos in the next 12 months?
We redesigned the website and created the project: We are Inclusion ("Somos Inclusão"). It already has more than 200 volunteers, teaching people about the importance of making their presence felt on Linkedin. Unfortunately, we have only a few trans people in this network. And I am a Linkedin Top Voice and the first trans person in this position. We hope to change this.
In the next few months, we also plan to transform TransEmpregos into TransJobs, to operate worldwide, not only Brazil. And achieve our biggest goal, which is to terminate TransEmpregos. We will only be a successful social project when we succeed in closing it down. Perhaps in the next 12 months, we will be celebrating the 5,000th company. This year we also started to employ individuals. When someone needs to hire a helper for their house, an elderly caregiver, or a nanny for their child, they can hire a trans person. If we achieve this revolution at the micro level, we will increasingly move towards this potential place, where the macro and micro will meet in the path of greater humanity and respect for all human beings. This is our goal!
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