Afro-descendant managers are atypical cases in Uruguayan companies

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It is not common to find black people in Uruguay at the managerial and leadership positions, as is the case of Walter Rivero who holds the position of Operations Manager at the Aloft Montevideo Hotel, inaugurated in Punta Carretas last December.

Rivero’s career has been developed in Starwoods Company(owner of Sheraton, in 2015 acquired by Marriott). He started as a security guard at Sheraton Montevideo in 2005, then became a “night auditor” in 2007 and an office supervisor in 2009, as can be seen in his LinkedIn profile. In 2014, he was part of the opening team of the W Worldwide Hotel in Bogotá (Colombia) and Punta de Mita (Mexico) and in July of last year, he took over as Operations Manager of Aloft.

Consulted by Café & Negocios, Rivero excused himself from making statements for this note.

Rivero’s case is clearly atypical for the Uruguayan reality. So much that, consulted in this regard, neither Miguel Pereira, an official of the Ministry of Social Development (Mides) responsible for managing the law that promotes the quotation of Afro-descendants in public employment, nor Eduardo Bottinelli, director of Factum – which made the only report on leadership of Afro-descendants in Uruguay- could name cases of managers with these characteristics in Uruguayan companies.

The report made in 2013 by Factum called the political and leadership map of the Afro-descendant population of Uruguay for the United Nations Development Program, used a sample of the 6,787 people in high positions in public institutions, private companies, and organizations.

He showed that only 0.2% of these positions were occupied by black people in private companies, which is equivalent to saying that 13 Afro-descendants were general managers of medium and large companies, Uruguayans, and subsidiaries of multinationals. It is not known in which sectors they work or who they were since anonymous surveys were used for the report.

Bottinelli pointed out that blacks who reached leadership positions managed to break educational barriers. “Discrimination appears to reach the high level, but there are also social and economic inequalities from the origin of people, from social and cultural capital,” he said.

For Pereira, who works as a technician in the Division of Human Rights of Mides, in the institutions of the public sphere it is easier to find cases of Afro-descendants in positions of leadership because the law 19.122 of 2013, mandates that in all the dependencies of the State 8% of the vacancies for black people must be reserved.

The 11.9% of the Afro population does not have formal education, according to the report presented by the MTSS.
In 2016, according to data from the National Office of the Civil Service, 275 people entered for that quota in compliance with the law in the State agencies and in the Legal Entities of Non-State Public Law. According to Pereira, that represents 1.78% of the total income produced in the year.

Disguised discrimination
There are also cases of Afro-descendants with tertiary and postgraduate studies, such as lawyers and accountants, who developed their careers abroad and when they returned to the country they found difficulties to get a job. In some cases, the answer they got is that they are overvalued for the position, according to the ex-deputy of the Broad Front, Edgardo Ortuño. That situation is “a form of disguised” discrimination, he added.

“In the end there is resistance to incorporating black people into the workforce (of a company) There is a social imaginary that does not see that person in leadership and leadership positions. racial historical division of labor, “he said.
10.8% was the unemployment rate of the Afro-descendant population in 2016; in 2010 it stood at 14%.

Ortuño, the founder of the House of Afro-Uruguayan Culture, was the first black deputy to take a seat in Parliament. In addition, he served as undersecretary of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining during the government of José Mujica and said he knew of several cases such as the one raised.

Not just a law
According to Pereira del Mides, one can think of using the 19,122 law as a model for, in the future, applying a similar regulation in the private sector. “What we need is articulation with the private sector and with the unions, and we have some elements in our strategic plan to move forward in that direction,” he said.

However, Ortuño understands that in Uruguay there is a process that goes “from raising awareness to the search for equal opportunities”, and before seeking to implement a law on quotas of Afro-descendants in the private sector, it is necessary to make an ” awareness campaign at the media level “.

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