A new movement led by female Afro-Brazilian executives and entrepreneurs is striving to break down the barriers that prevent the nation's black population from making greater inroads in the business world.
The group's main objective is to combat the structures of influence and power that limit the entry and continued presence of people of African descent in the country's labor market, the founder of the "Black Money" movement in Brazil, Nina Silva, said in an interview with EFE.
Afro-Brazilians, who make up 54 percent of the population in a country of roughly 200 million inhabitants, spend around 1.7 trillion reais ($400 billion) a year but still make around 1,200 reais less per month than white workers
They also represent 66 percent of the 13 million unemployed persons nationwide and three-fourths of those in the poorest 10 percent of the population.
"Structural racism managed to dissect and marginalize the black population in such a way that we don't have healthcare, education nor access to credit," Silva said.
An executive and entrepreneur who has worked as an IT systems manager at large companies, Silva decided to launch "Black Money" after being inspired by a similar movement in the United States.
The initiative aims to promote the circulation of money and the provision of services within the black community, who historically have occupied the bottom rung of the pyramid in all socio-economic indicators in Brazil.
Responding to critics who question whether the movement is promoting a type of segregation, Silva's message is loud and clear: "racism is power structure and blacks don't have access to it. I'm not taking power away from anyone simply because I never had it."
"I'm not talking about meritocracy because that's a fallacy ... Women don't have the same starting point as men, just as blacks don't have the same starting point as whites, due to (Brazil's) historical context," she said.
Named one of Brazil's 20 most powerful women by Forbes magazine and as one of the 100 most influential people of African descent worldwide, business and entrepreneurship category by the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) organization, Silva says she has experienced racism first hand since she was a girl.
"Every time I excelled in anything, the mothers of the other students saw it as the school giving me extra help, since I was the only black student," said the 36-year-old executive and founder of D'Black Bank, who was born in one of Rio de Janeiro's largest favelas.
Although recently launched and still in the implementation phase, the "Black Money" movement has made impressive strides in a span of just two years.
It has formed partnerships with private technology companies, teamed with experts to teach courses on finance and conscientious consumption and offered a wide range of classes for those wanting to start their own businesses.
These programs have benefited people such as production engineer Aira Nascimento, who left her job of 10 years at a multinational company to open her own business.
"I always thought I should use my experiences and my sufferings as a black woman to help others. That entrepreneurial desire stems from my desire change something in this country," said the business leader, who has run her own consulting business and entrepreneurial training center in Rio de Janeiro for the past two months.
Silva, the ever-smiling founder of "Black Money," said she is optimistic about the future despite the "policies against diversity" being promoted by rightist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
"I say this is the time to transgress, rather than resist .. to create our own institutions, whether they be financial or educational," the executive said.