Responsibility, ethics, listening capacity, appreciation of the other, strategic vision, innovation and broad legal knowledge. The list includes some of the qualities common to people who work in traditional leadership positions in the legal world. Let us add to them factors such as the unequal struggle to be successful, the permanent state of alertness caused by the increased collection related to unconscious biases, the awareness of being an exception and the role of inspiring and transforming reality. We will have, with a reasonable margin of reckoning, a black leadership.

Although such differences should not exist 133 years after Brazil was the last country to formally abolish slavery in the Americas, these have been common characteristics to black people in leadership positions in the judiciary and in large Brazilian law firms.

According to Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), 56% of the country's population declares itself brown and black. Despite this percentage, throughout the history of the Supreme Federal Court (STF), for example, only three blacks joined the court: Ministers Joaquim Barbosa, between 2003 and 2014; Hermegenildo de Barros, appointed in 1919 and retired in 1937; and Pedro Lessa, minister between 1907 and 1921. As for black women, so far none have been part of the Supreme Court – a reflection of our culture permeated by racism and sexism that is often unrecognized.

Already in the higher courts - Superior Court of Justice (STJ), Superior Labor Court (TST), Superior Electoral Court (TSE) and Superior Military Court (STM) –, only 1.3% declare themselves black and 7.6%, brown, according to the Judicial Census conducted in 2018 by the National Council of Justice. In the Public Prosecutor's Office, blacks are only 2% according to IBGE.

In the midst of the low representation of black leaders, we found, exceptionally, professionals committed to the change of scenery, such as the prosecutor Lívia Sant'Anna Vaz, who works in the Public Prosecutor's Office of the State of Bahia and was Recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of African descent in the world for the MIPAD award – Most Influential People Afro Descendent - Law & Justice Edition.

For Livia, although they represent 56% of the population, black people in Brazil are not represented in public and private institutions and in the spaces of power and decision, and this has a direct impact on the way the justice system offers its services to citizens. According to the jurist said in an interview given to the authors of the article, "the struggle is unequal, because black bodies cause strangeness even today, in spaces of power, especially the body of the black woman, an instrument that speaks before even opening the mouth". She believes that, only through alliances between institutions, there can be a strengthening that allows to overcome this solitary and exceptional condition in leadership spaces.

the lawyer and doctor of law at Harvard University in the United States, Adilson José Moreira, author of "Recreational Racism", states in interview to lexlatin portal that "the legal world, the Brazilian faculty is made up of white people. Today, 80% of Brazilian law professors are upper-class heterosexual white men. These people have never suffered discrimination in their lives, so on the contrary, they are systematically privileged by racism."

Published by the National Council of Justice (CNJ) in 2018, the latest report Sociodemographic Profile of Brazilian Magistrates, which seeks to identify who the Brazilian magistrates are in terms of demographic, social and professional characteristics, points out that only 14% of the magistrates are black, 64% of whom are white and the other classified as brown.

In the state of Bahia, a federal unit with one of the largest black populations in the country, only 5% of the magistrates are black, which reinforces the finding that the Judiciary, being an instrument for combating injustices, can and should expand the space of representativeness when it comes to afrodescent in leadership positions.

In private enterprise, when we look at a work published by IBGE in 2019, we have the following cutout: "Despite the fact that the black or brown employed population is higher than the white population, the proportion in management positions shows a significant majority of white people – 68.6% versus 29.9% in 2018. Such under-representation of black or brown employed people in this matter occurs in the five Great Regions of the country. Although in the North and Northeast regions there is a higher proportion of black or brown people than white people in managerial positions (respectively 61.1% and 56.3%), these percentages are lower than those observed in the general occupied population, in 2018 (respectively, 78.0% and 74.1%), characterizing the under-representativeness also in these regions."

Although blacks are the majority in public universities (50.3%), IBGE data show that they occupy only 30% of the leadership positions in the country.

With regard to lawyers, the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) currently has more than 1.2 million registered. However, there are no data on the percentage of browns and blacks, as there has not been a census for racial analysis so far

Demonstrating the growing importance of the debate on institutional racism, however, in 2020 the I National Conference for the Promotion of Equality.

In line with the racial diagnosis made in law firms, the Center for the Study of Labor Relations and Inequalities (Ceert) conducted a survey in 2018 that showed the existence of less than 1% of black lawyers in large Brazilian law firms. The survey was conducted in partnership with the Legal Alliance for Racial Equity and analyzed nine newsstands in São Paulo.

We have made progress since then, but a coherent reading of the data provides us with the perspective that affirmative policies, although long publicized as essential for the development of a society that seriously seeks historical redress in relation to the black population, are still incipient and there is much to improve.

It is not just about reparation and justice: Brazil's development can be proportional to its wealth of diversity.

Research conducted by McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, revealed that companies with greater ethnic diversity in their executive teams are 33% more likely to profitability.

In order to achieve these goals that in everything prove beneficial, it is enough to stimulate a factor that at some point permeates the lives of all leaders, regardless of whether they are black or white: opportunity.

It is in this space of creating opportunities that some offices, like Machado Meyer, have stood out implementing internal policies aimed at minorities. The initiative aims to boost careers of black people through mentoring, educational incentives such as language courses and undergraduate studies, support for projects such as Include Law, and encourage the admission of black employees to management positions and white professionals engaged in anti-racist actions. This makes it possible not only to increase the number of black people in the staff, but also reaffirms the importance of the representativeness of these people in leadership positions.

The racial and social inequalities that have been open in the last year due to the covid-19 pandemic and the debates on racism make the adoption of actions to solve this historical-cultural situation even more pressing.

One of the ways to achieve a more responsible legal world on this issue is planning to expand the number of black leaders in the corporate world.

The question we all ask ourselves is: how can we accelerate the expansion of the black leadership contingent? The answer, as already pointed out in the article Structural racism is, "we need to act!". There are many actions that need to be taken, including:

  • Racial literacy: the need to deconstruct ways of thinking and acting that have been naturalized – such as the logic of the Eurocentric perspective guided by white privilege – to implement actions to combat the structural racism present throughout Brazilian society and to curb any type or attempt of physical, psychological and intimidating violence.
  • Debates on racial equality so that more blacks can report their difficulties and help raise employee awareness of the issue.
  • Anti-racist protagonism of companies: commitment of companies and employees to racial equality through the adoption of anti-racist policies and practices such as:
    • Acceleration of entry programs through specific training and training to provide internal reception and awareness of the entire organization
    • Increase in the number of blacks in decent positions and salaries in companies to have conditions of education for themselves and their
    • Training of black professionals so that they are more prepared and companies can maintain them at all levels and sectors of their staff, offering professional improvement, mentoring programs and international experiences
    • Hiring blacks for the top management of organizations
    • Encouraging the indication of black professionals
    • Insertion in the labor market of black professionals already qualified and not absorbed by large companies
    • Participation in forums that provide guidelines for advancing the theme of racial equity
    • Promoting a culture in which employees help, encourage, and boost their black colleagues
    • Adhering to programs aimed at racial change, such as the Legal Alliance for Racial Equity, the[1] and the Include Law project, an initiative of the Center for the Study of Law Firms (Cesa) to contribute to reducing inequalities and discrimination, promoting the inclusion of black students in the legal universe through an agreement with supporting offices and universities

The above initiatives are no longer isolated and have been implemented by several companies, as pointed out in the book The anti-racist company: how CEOs and senior leaders are acting to include blacks and blacks in large corporations.[2]

The trajectory of black leaders, in addition to breaking stereotypes and racial unconscious biases, also opens up space and encourages blacks to achieve their goals and reduce inequalities.

The intention of this article is not only to point out the causes of inequality or to highlight the status of a minority of the black race, even though this discussion has the utmost importance and is necessary in many layers of Brazilian society lacking information in several aspects. The article, written by three black lawyers in an exceptional position in an office that respects our place of speech and is willing to propagate our voices, aims to demonstrate that changes are urgent and it is essential that those in a position of privilege educate their gaze to observe that skills exist in all human beings , regardless of skin color.

Machado Meyer is part of the Legal Alliance for Racial Equity and reinforces, through ID.Afro, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and all its members, the commitment to anti-racist initiatives.




"Half the population, blacks are only 1% of the lawyers of the big offices," Conjur, 12/6/2020,

"With the blackest capital of the country, Bahia wins free application for registration of complaints against racism and religious intolerance", G1, 19/11/2018, 

"Social inequalities by color or race in Brazil", IBGE, Studies and Research - Demographic and Socioeconomic Information, no. 41, 2019,

"The top has color: blacks are still a minority in leading positions in the food industry," The tares and wheat, 29/10/20, 

"Black Women's Leadership Survey", Restless, 04/29/21,

"Ambev, Carrefour and other giants create project of R $ 45 mi against racism", UOL, 08/06/21 

"Launch of the Legal Alliance for Racial Equity", FGV, 03/21/19,

"Black Consciousness Day: is the law sector inclusive?", Folha OAB, 20/11/20, 

"I National Conference for the Promotion of Equality, National OAB, 19 and 20/11/21"

"Video of the 1st National Conference for the Promotion of Equality, OAB Nacional, 19 and 20/11/21"

"IBGE: 64% of the unemployed are black and informality reaches 47%," Brazil in fact, 11/13/19,

"CNJ research: how many black judges? How many women?", CNJ News Agency, 3/5/18,

 "Racial literacy: a challenge for all of us, Portal Geledés, 28/10/17,

"Black jurists and the struggle for spaces in the world of law", Folha de Pernambuco, 09/07/20,

"Sociodemographic Profile of Brazilian Magistrates", CNJ, 2018,


[1] The movement aims to work on three pillars: leadership, employment and training and awareness. In the first, the signatory companies commit to create a total of 10,000 new positions for black people in leadership positions (such as supervisors, coordinators, managers and directors) by 2030. In the pillar of employment and training, the planned actions aim to generate opportunity for three million people, through the offer of courses and network of relationships with black entrepreneurs. In the last pillar, the movement proposes to be a tool to support awareness of racism. The initiative aims to carry out advertising campaigns on the theme [...] - See more in 

[2] PESTANA, Mauritius. The anti-racist company: how CEOs and senior leaders are acting to include blacks and blacks in large corporations. 3rd ed. Rio de Janeiro: Agir, 2021