Cris Fernandes writes about his experience at the RD Summit 2019, where he conducted interviews for his podcast, Ideias Negras
“It is essential that we occupy these spaces!”
This was one of the most highlighted phrases by my black speakers interviewed at the RD Summit 2019. I am the creator of Ideias Negras, a podcast of interviews with black and black professionals from different fields of activity – entrepreneurship, literature, arts, education, fashion, beauty, journalism, media, and others.
The idea is for them to talk about their initiatives and express reflections on the challenges and achievements of their areas. On the other hand, the Black Ideas podcast also seeks to contribute to the repercussion of these voices, showing that there are excellent black professionals in all sectors of society and fields of activity.
That’s why I was so excited to be able to do a special podcast series with black speakers who participated in the latest edition of the RD Summit. I really wanted to meet and talk with the greatest experts in Digital Marketing, technology, and Sales today. And, at the end of the three most intense days of the last few months, I confess that it was an extraordinary experience and I am already looking forward to the next one.
Black speakers at the RD Summit 2019
My first surprise was that, when researching the speakers in the program to identify who I would be interviewing, I reached 11 names out of a total of 120 national and foreign speakers. Now you might be thinking that 10% is too little.
Yes, it’s not much, relatively speaking. We are far from the proportion of more than half that represents the black population in Brazil, but we are following this path. Society is more aware of the need to seek greater black representation in all spaces. Most black people look the other way when entering an office, restaurant… or count how many black people have starred in a movie or advertising campaign.
Thus, on this November 20th – Black Consciousness Day – a moment in which the situation of the black population in Brazil is reflected, one of the issues that stand out in this debate are the challenges for the expansion of black representation in corporations, universities, in the positions of leadership in the public and private sector, in short, in decision-making spaces.
Black professionals in technology
I interviewed five black speakers from RD Summit 2019: Ana Minuto, Ana Rodrigues, Camilli Calixto, Edu Costa and Nina Silva.
Ana Minuto has over 15 years of experience in IT Project Management and Implementation in Call Center companies, are a personal development coach and diversity consultant for companies. “How and why to encourage diversity in organizations” was the theme of his lecture.
Ana Rodrigues is Group Product Manager at RD, managing the relationship between technology partners and end customers. Together with Lucas Zunder, Ana explained the step-by-step instructions for integrating the various tools into RD Station.
Camilli Calixto is an Administrator and Customer Success Manager at RD. In her talk, “Introduction to Inbound Marketing,” she shared her experience as an account manager at RD and what she’s learned over time to ensure customers’ success in using RD Station. Participants made a long line at the end of their speech to take selfies.
Edu Costa is a business mentor, Digital Marketing specialist and helps entrepreneurs generate more sales with LinkedIn. The title of his talk was “LinkedIn Hacks: the best tools, tactics and resources to scale your growth with digital sales”, in which he tells how, almost by chance, he discovered the commercial potential of LinkedIn leaving his teaching career behind of History to become an expert in the largest professional social network in the world.
Nina Silva has been an IT executive for over 16 years, mentor and business manager in technology and entrepreneur. She is one of the founders of the Black Money Movement and of D’Black, a fintech that connects black consumers and entrepreneurs. She was elected by Forbes magazine as one of the most influential people of African descent today. In the lecture “Branding for you and your business” – very popular, with an audience of more than a thousand participants – Nina told how she transformed her trajectory into a personal and business brand.
Historical inequalities between whites and blacks
We live in a country with enormous inequality in the living conditions of whites and blacks, forged in a slave economy of exploitation of enslaved people that lasted four of the five centuries of its history. Brazilian blacks, descendants of the enslaved, were for a long period excluded from the most fundamental rights to citizenship, such as quality education.
It is worth remembering that it was only in the last 15 years that Brazil has implemented affirmative action in education and inclusion policies in institutions to repair the effects of this historic debt – and this is a result of pressure from civil society organizations of the black movement. However, even with an equivalent educational level, institutional racism still persists that makes it very difficult for blacks to enter, rise and professionally stand out compared to whites.
More than half of the Brazilian population is black
A few years ago, some organizations and companies, particularly multinationals, began to worry about the lack of diversity in events (and in the workforce) and began to invest efforts to reverse this situation. This movement was also provoked by claims echoed in social media by underrepresented groups in society – black men and women, LGBTQIA+, People with Disabilities and others.
However, at the beginning, it was only a representative of those groups that figured in the list of those who spoke at the events. Here I used the verb “to speak” to refer to the concept of “place of speech” popularized by the philosopher Djamila Ribeiro. “Place of speech” has to do with who is authorized (by whoever holds the decision-making power) to produce the discourses that circulate in society and contribute to the construction of the social imaginary.
Real representativeness, not token
A single individual symbolizing a group in spaces is what they call a “token” or “tokenism”. For some time now, activists armed with the power of communication in social networks have started to demand more representation, it was not enough to just have a figurative “token”.
Under-represented groups want to see themselves in the spaces insofar as their representation in the whole of the Brazilian population. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), women account for almost 52% and blacks (a group formed by blacks and browns, categorization by the IBGE) make up almost 55% of the Brazilian population.
Technology is still a lonely place for black women
Black technology and marketing professionals still feel alone in this field. “It’s still very lonely to occupy this place” this was the second sentence most said by my interviewees. Sometimes it was said in other words, but with the same meaning.
Being the only black person in most spaces – whether in companies, restaurants or at events – is a source of sadness for them. But it’s also a reason to continue and do what’s in their hands to try to change that reality.
Black women form the largest population group in Brazil. There are almost 60 million people, that is, 28% of the Brazilian population according to the IBGE.
Effort and responsibility of black speakers
Of the five black speakers at the RD Summit 2019 interviewed, four were women – Ana Minuto, Ana Rodrigues, Camilli Calixto, and Nina Silva. For these black women, the effort and responsibility of being in this leadership position in an event like the RD Summit 2019, with 12,000 participants, is huge.
First, because they feel that, incessantly, they have to prove their competence and try to be ten times better than a fellow white male.
Furthermore, they take on the responsibility of being a reference and inspiration for other young black women so that they dare to occupy those places that, at first, were not made for them.
And, finally, the interviewees report a commitment to show non-black people the reality and point of view of a black woman, in a daily educational endeavor in a hegemonically male and white world, in addition to being traditionally racist and sexist.
In fact, it’s a lot, because it’s all added to the results that every competent professional has to deliver in the corporate environment.
However, they seem very motivated and driven by the desire to contribute to the construction of a more plural and socially fairer society. A society in which all people, regardless of gender and skin color, can fight to fulfill their dreams. These black women no longer want to be alone in these spaces.
Special RD Summit 2019 of the Black Ideas podcast
The first episode of the Ideias Negras podcast with Camilli Calixto and Ana Rodrigues is now on air. They share some of the experience of working at one of the biggest technology companies in Brazil, talk about career possibilities and give tips for those interested in digital marketing.