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Representation to overcome inequalities

July 28, 2023

By Filipe Reduto Gaspar

I grew up surrounded by examples of people who look like me – white men – occupying most of the leadership positions. I saw them in the places I attended, and through the media, where also, in fiction, most of the heroic characters were just like me. Having these representations of people like me being glorified and achieving so much, ended up ingraining in me, and in so many other white boys, an expectation of what one day I too could – and maybe even deserved and should – be. Society expects this of me, and the privilege resulting from the social role it has imprinted on me means that a ‘good future’ is more readily available to me. This is a reflection of the patriarchy and white supremacy that still permeate our culture – which, moreover, are insidious, in that they are not obvious to the untrained eye of anyone who does not experience or study social discrimination.

Let’s imagine the case of a black woman: how many success stories of people like her could she find to inspire her? How many characters in movies and series could she identify with and feel recognized by? And culturally, is it expected of her what is expected of me?

It is still very common to see positions of power, in the most varied organizations, tending to be occupied by white men, while roles at the bottom of the pyramid, such as cleaning and maintenance – which are equally important – are assigned to racialized and/or immigrant women. If I, on the one hand, because of my gender and ethnicity, have been instilled with the narrative that I should be ambitious, intelligent and successful, they, on the other, are still being pushed into reproductive and precarious work.

This is just one of a number of diversity dimensions that are not encouraged to benefit from good opportunities, a consequence of cultural dogmas that are then expressed in the economic realities of social groups – which, in turn, determine success factors such as educational background or where a person lives.

Thus, the positive representation of people other than white men in organizations and the media is necessary because, by inspiring by examples, one can encourage social mobility and contribute to dissipating social inequalities. Moreover, plurality is always positive for organizations, so representation will promote an inclusive workplace culture, valuing diversity and contributing to a better life in society.