Same, same but different? Women’s experiences with gender inequality in Brazil

Publication Date03 Apr 2018
AuthorClarice Santos,Adriana V. Garibaldi de Hilal
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Industrial/labour relations,Employment law
Same, same but different?
Womens experiences with
gender inequality in Brazil
Clarice Santos and Adriana V. Garibaldi de Hilal
COPPEAD Graduate School of Business,
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine gender issues in Brazil from the perceptions, experiences,
and discourses of professional women in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Design/methodology/approach The study is based on 26 in-depth interviews with female professionals.
The methodology consists of an exploratory approach through content analysis.
Findings Despite the fact that Brazil demonstrates an idealized national ethos that promotes equality,
gender roles are still very traditional. Participants recognized gender issues at work, including covert
discrimination, though most did not acknowledge experiencing them personally.
Originality/value There is dissonance between global trends and the actual experience of female professionals
in Brazil. Although participants rejected the idea of personally experiencing inequality, they acknowledge its
existence in human resources (HR) practices. This leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy where gender inequality
is perpetuated and organizations and HR departments do not seem to have a proactive role as change agents.
Keywords Gender, Brazil, Women, Sexual discrimination, Women workers
Paper type Research paper
Despite decades of research and debates, gender inequality remains a worldwide issue and
one that appears to be at the forefront of the global humanitarian agenda( Joshi et al., 2015,
p. 1459). There has been progress in female representation and an increase in gender
diversity, but a lack of understanding remains as women have achieved little progress in
reaching top management and leadership positions (Madsen and Scribner, 2017). On the
positive side, women are completing undergraduate degrees at a higher rate (Burke and
Vinnicombe, 2013); but more often than not, they earn less than men for comparable jobs
and tend to be over-represented in casual or unpaid roles (Beede et al., 2011; Cook and Glass,
2014). Researchers have dedicated more than 3,000 papers since 1970 to try to understand
the factors that underpin gender inequality (Eagly and Heilman, 2016). Of those, 38 percent
were published after 2010, revealing growing interest in the topic.
Gender scholars have emphasized the need for more theorizing and research with a
less West-centric stance(Holden et al., 2015, p. xlvi) focusing on other geographical regions
such as Latin America, which is sorely underrepresented(Madsen and Scribner, 2017, p. 243).
In Brazil, the largest country in South America, gender has been addressed in the literature
from a variety of fields, with publications targeting gender relations at work (often from the
harassment/abuse perspective), followed by gender and sexuality, and gen der violence
(Araújo and Lombardi, 2013; Degraff and Anker, 2015; Gonçalves et al., 2004).
Brazil has gone through significant changes in the workplace scenario due to
demographic forces, economic shifts, and technological advances. There has been an
observable increase in womens participation in the labor market from 39.6 percent in 1993
to 44 percent in 2016 (Bruschini, 2007; Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada, 2016).
Nonetheless, females are still responsible for the majority of non-paid activities at home,
working on average 7.5 hours a week more than men in total (Instituto Brasileiro de
Geografia e Estatística, 2016; Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada, 2016). In addition,
Employee Relations
Vol. 40 No. 3, 2018
pp. 486-499
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/ER-04-2017-0094
Received 24 April 2017
Revised 26 October 2017
11 January 2018
Accepted 11 January 2018
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