Women (and Men) in Brazil: Some Personal Notes

As we head into the final stretch of the first round of the presidential election, we have, if we can believe the polls and we probably can, two women heading toward a run off.

Interesting. As President Dilma became Brazil’s first female president, the (international) press says that Marina could be the second and first black to occupy Brazil’s highest office.  I don’t think many Brazilians look at Marina as black, probably more likely a “cafusa” ou “mameluca” as befits descendents of nordestinos born in the Amazon.  But I digress.

Instead of the sociology of race, I am reflecting, personally, more on my 50 plus years since 1963 when I first arrived.  Women at the time were certainly more cloistered, and more dependent.  Certainly, they were less active in the work force and present in upper education pretty much only in language, literature and teaching.  Few women at the time were preparing for and entering the male dominated professions of law, medicine and engineering.

In my teens, I had an acute interest in Brazilian girls and I have fond memories of a 15 year old boy and the clumsy attempts at dating.  It was interesting.  My first GF of note was the mayor’s daughter.  I met her under the pretense of helping with her English and for a period of close to a year we had a wonderfully prim and chaperoned relationship.  I was not even sure that we were dating as we actually never went out.  However, in the little town where we lived, my frequent visits for lunch and afternoons made everyone in town assume that we were “namorando”.  As the mayor’s daughter, my friend was obviously in the urban elite and a trophy to strive for without quite grasping.  Haha!

And as a teenager, I definitely was anxious to find something quite “palpable”.   Indeed, I made the acquaintance of a young lady who did not have the same bonafides as my “official” girl friend.  This girl lived in a small two room bungalow (barracao) with her mother who was something of a drinker.  Because of her living situation, I was able to spend time alone with her and fortunately for me she reciprocated my advances and we engaged in a lot of kissing and what we used to call petting.  From today’s perspective, it was extraordinary.

Over the years, I followed a course which was the normal and expected for boys and men of my age.  We dated nice girls with chaperones and left them at home at 10 and then we were free to run around and find the “bad” girls.  At times these girls were prostitutes usually a few years older than we were or they were girls who had somehow evaded or lost their families and had a freedom unknown to the so-called nice girls.  By this time, I had also moved to Belo Horizonte, “O Capital”, with over a million inhabitants and where social strictures were less tight as compared with the small town of some 15000.

It is also important to contextualize a bit the time period.  We are talking about the sixties with all of its struggles involving sexual liberation, the pill, civil rights, incipient feminism, the anti-war movement and all the related individuation taking place.  Brazil as an organic and patriarchal and only recently urbanized society resisted but eventually succumbed to the radical changes that came sweeping through on a global scale in the 60’s.  Culturally, Brazil’s military coup of 1964 attempted to find roots to resist change.  For a period the far right Catholic movement based on Tradition, Property and Family (read patriarchy) flourished.  Certainly in my home state, dating was strictly controlled by TFM or Traditional Family of Minas.

By the 1970’s, global communications through TV and the press, urbanization, social mobility and access to education, especially for the middle class, led to cracks and then ruptures in the strictures and constraints on social and sexual norms.  I think I was close to the mean when I married in 1973 after a standard, chaperoned courtship and wedded a virgin bride.  However, the rebellion and reaction to the authoritarian military government and paternal domination in a world where women were achieving parity in numbers in upper education and, to a lesser extent in the professions, had to lead to greater freedom for women.  By the end of the 70’s, at least in the big cities, it was no longer a requirement and less and less the norm for a woman to be sexually inexperienced at marriage.

Brazilian men follow the Latin tradition as machos.  There is a desire to be noted for prowess and conquest.  At the same time, we want to be modern and concede autonomy and equality at least on a certain level.  Some of this has to do with economics and money.  If a woman earns more than a man or if she has an inheritance or is somehow independently wealthy apart from her male counterpart, she is likely to assert her freedom both in social and sexual terms.  Undoubtedly, society is still tilted toward males more than women in politics, business, and leadership roles for women are anomalies rather than the norm, until today.

Still it is of interest that Dilma and I are the same age and although I never met her personally, we were in the same circles in Belo Horizonte in the mid-sixties.  Marina is about 10 years younger.  Both have lived through this transformation from the division between good girls and bad to women as a group striving for respect and position of influence and power within society.

I think that in Brazil we have survived the sexual revolution.  On a personal level, there will always be angst about relationships but virginity as a sexual coin and requirement only for women has pretty much fallen out of use and clearly so as levels of education and income increase.  The upside is that two women running for President forge greater respect for women and show that all positions and possibilities of power are available outside of the family and apart from submission of sexuality to male control.  The downside is that women are still generally viewed as objects of sexual desire and for many still subject to male domination and control.





Brazil in the 21st Century: An Event Organized by Bay Brazil held at Stanford on Sept. 12, 2014

Bay Brazil, a Bay Area based networking group dedicated to linking Silicon Valley and Brazil, presented its third Brazil in the 21st Century at the Stanford Law School on Sept. 12.  Here is the link to the agenda: http://www.baybrazil.org/sep-12-brazil-21st-century

The agenda lists the topics and speakers and the line up was top level.  Mauro Vieira, Brazil’s Ambassador to the USA, came from Washington, DC and Virgilio Almeida, IT Secretary of the Ministry of Technology and Science, came from Brasilia.  Numerous other business executives came from Brazil and Margarise Correa, the Brazil Bay Founder and CEO put together a formidable line up of business executives with Brazilian and American endeavors.  Recent Silicion Valley successful start ups such as UBER, Evernote, and AirBnB all praise the Brazilian market and noted their recent growth and success there.  Similarly, larger companies like Google/You Tube, VISA and Nike confirmed their optimism about the Brazilian market although they also recognized levels of uncertainty in the economy and the political situation with this year’s elections.

From a business perspective, the major take away, in my opinion, is that all of the obstacles, barriers, arcane traditions, bureaucracy and lack of a start up company capitalist culture translate into opportunities for those who have right business idea, the right plan, the local knowledge and contacts.  As is widely known, Brazil with a population of 200 million, also is the 7th largest economy in the world with a GDP of over 2 trillion dollars.  Globalization, especially as expressed in its use of the internet, does not and cannot ignore Brazil.  Even the lack of capital for start ups becomes an opportunity as Brazilian entrepreneurs and idea makers articulate plans and businesses that attract venture capital firms here and have led to the development of a growing VC market in Brazil.  Brazil’s National Development Bank (BNDES), one of the largest banks in the world, promoted its support of entrepreneurship through its dedicated investment funds.  Companies like DocuSign are finding a tremendous field in taking advantage of Brazil’s “notary” tradition by  providing a safe electronic signature system.

Although Brazil is technically in a recession, underlying entrepreneurial forces that are emerging tied to the web bode well and the panelists on entrepreneurship, innovation and the Brazilian investment market were all universally optimistic.  Certainly, it was interesting to see how young Brazilian are succeeding (albeit after many trials and difficulties).

Another point that I found fascinating was the strong presence of Brazilians with what might be called a bi-national spirit.  Young entrepreneurs were on panels and in the audience. Most had come to the US to study or do graduate school and grew roots here without neglecting Brazil.  Many of the companies have a presence in both the US and Brazil and at times other countries as well, once again noting the globalizing effect of the web.

For more on the Bay Brazil Conference, please see my September 16 reposting of the Everwise Blog by Katy Dickinson.


Everwise, InovAtiva, BayBrazil Annual Conference

I met Katy at the conference and she did a nice job on summarizing with pictures.



Ilana Robbins Gross and I from Everwise attended the BayBrazil annual conference: “Brazil in the 21st Century” yesterday on the Stanford Law School campus. I have known Margarise Correa (Founder & CEO of BayBrazil) for some years and admire both her leadership and ability to bring together the Brazilian diaspora of the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay Area. Ilana and I were there to learn and expand our network and also to meet potential mentors for the InovAtiva Brasil mentoring program I have been working on for the past year. Everwise just launched the mentoring platform for InovAtiva!

The conference included notable speakers, including the Honorable Mauro Vieira (Ambassador from Brazil to the USA) and Virgilio A.F. Almeida (IT Secretary, Ministry of Science, Technology of Brazil). Both the Stanford Law School and the co-sponsor Rock Center for Corporate Governance welcomed us. Big technical companies were represented by Airbnb…

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Morning After in October or November

The elections in Brazil are generating a lot of heat.  There has been a lot of drama including the death of Eduardo Campos, the strong uptick with Marina, Aecio’s fall and Dilma being touched (again) by corruption scandals.  It makes you wonder how Brazil survives.  Yet it does and the sun will come up after round 1 of the elections and even after the runoff.  Dilma continues in the lead, but according to the polling, statistically tied with Marina.  So let’s think a bit:  What will change with Dilma’s second term?  Or, what will Marina’s government look like and how will it be different from the PT?

In the economic sphere, Dilma wants to continue overseeing the Central Bank while Marina has promised its autonomy/independence.  So with the current administration, more of the same where the BC (central bank) is not formally dependent upon the President and acts in, I think the consensus is, a fairly non-political fashion.  With Marina, independence would be enhanced but it still remains to be seen how “independent” it could actually be under a new formal legally sanctioned environment.  At this moment, we don’t really know what that looks like.

In terms of policy, there really is not that much difference between Dilma and Marina.  Both favor and want the continuity of state participation in the economy.  I would be surprised if Marina could successfully reform the tax system as she, like Dilma, needs every centavo of revenue to pay for state activities ranging from pensions to health to education to infrastructure.  Marina has only spoken vaguely of reviving Brazilian manufacturing and has failed to clearly show how this might be done.  With Dilma, she promises to remove Finance Minister Mantega but his replacement is just as likely to bring a similar state friendly outlook and face the same internal and external barriers, i.e. continued weakness of the dollar and euro, plus the need to keep taxes high, thus effectively constraining production.

Marina might have more of a sustainable development approach, but this will not mean stopping Belo Monte.  She might slow further dam construction in the Amazon basin but this will have to be balanced by other alternative power sources that thus far Brazil has only scratched.  The Petrobras and statist lobbies favoring traditional sources of energy will not go away meekly.

Dilma, for whatever reason, has not been directly or closely associated, to this point, in the corruption scandals.  Her hard core followers accept that she is personally honest. She still carries some of the image of Ms. Clean although the PT in power has not helped.  Marina, in turn, is trying to be the standard bearer for the clean up.  However, she has been touched (perhaps lightly) by the accusations against Eduardo Campos in the Petrobras saga.  The big question she has to face is if there is an institutional structure and a culture coming into place that will inhibit dishonest dealings.  One might have doubts about this in the land of the “jeitinho”.  Passive acceptance of certain ills are so deeply embedded that it will take more than one exemplary leader to set a new standard.  And while apparently upright, who can vouch for those surrounding Marina?

Brazil continues to be a bit messy with slow and jerky improvement.  Those who have clawed their way to middle class status want fair access and a level playing field.  Those who have long shared in state “bonesses” (the traditional middle class) are loath to make concessions.  Can Marina or Dilma lead the way out of this morass?  Maybe, but only slowly.

What about Aecio? He would like to be Fernando Henrique number 2, but at this point, he does not have political support.  Only the traditional elites, the media and his home state strongly support him.  That is not enough.

Brazil will wake up in October or November with a new administration and still a long haul of problems.  Just like on the morning after the 7 x 1 world cup defeat to Germany, people will still have to get up.




A Sequencia do Meu Dialogo com Um Jovem Emprendedor

Oi Steve,

não vejo problema algum. Aliás, obrigado por ter gostado do comentário, ter me deixado alguns “aninhos” mais jovem e pelo “bem sucedido”.

Na verdade, me vejo na obrigação de aprofundar um pouco mais minha visão sobre o Brasil.

Steve, acredito muito na livre iniciativa, no Estado pequeno, mas que regule abusos.
Acredito em políticas sociais que tentam corrigir falhas históricas e dar oportunidades a todos.
Acredito que é possível gente de bem se interessar por política.
Acredito que simplesmente “lavar as mãos”, não é o caminho para a mudança.

Porém, a sociedade brasileira, com todas as suas belezas, na minha opinião, peca em um ponto básico, bem lá embaixo, na raíz: justiça.
Uma sociedade que não acredita em justiça, de forma ampla, não cultiva confiança. Daí cresce o sentimento individualista. A tentativa de se dar bem rápido.
Você viveu muitos anos da sua vida por aqui e sabe do que estou falando.
Da justiça mínima à máxima. Do passar no sinal amarelo e não acontecer nada, aos inúmeros gestores públicos fora da cadeia, mesmo após comprovadamente terem cometido crimes.
Do pequeno assaltante que tem vinte e cinco passagens (de poucas horas) pela polícia, aos inúmeros juízes que fazem nepotismo cruzado (um contrata o parente do outro) e ninguém toca no assunto.
Das grandes negociatas dos “Malufs” e “Nicolaus”, aos milhares de médios empreiteiros que financiam prefeitos de pequenas cidades Brasil afora e enriquecem com dinheiro público.

Você há de convir que toda a beleza desse pais não é suficiente para contrabalançar a sensação generalizada de injustiça.
Aqui, você sabe, temos que pagar tudo em dobro. Para governo e para a iniciativa privada. Escola, saúde, segurança.
Pergunte a algum gestor público com um cargo mediano, eleito ou concursado, se ele usa o serviço público.
Pois deveria ser obrigado pela justiça.
“Não é você quem gere? Pois então, coloque seus filhos na escola pública e fique proibido de contratar a Amil, Unimed ou algo que o valha.
Morar em condomínio fechado ou ter porteiro no prédio, também não, senhor”.

Minha geração cresceu em meio a crises e à redemocratização. Quando ficou economicamente ativa já tinha moeda estável.
Tinha incentivos pra acreditar no empreendedorismo, ter como exemplo os empresários que, do nada, e de forma ética, construíram grandes empresas, geraram milhares de empregos.
Mas o que vi não foi isso. Foram levas e levas de amigos e amigas se dedicando aos concursos públicos. Buscando a estabilidade através da entrada em algum órgão gerido pelo Estado.
Talvez herança dos nossos pais. Do emprego no “Banco do Brasil”.
Certo é que ajudaram a engordar o déficit da previdência.

Se vejo luz no fim do túnel? Com pouca esperança, mas sim.
Vejo muitos jovens investindo em suas empresas. Talvez mais uma influência americana: as “start-ups”, o “venture capital”, os “Zuckerbergs”.
A tomada de risco, o ser humano fora da zona de conforto, o senso de justiça construíram o seu país de nascença. (sei que o de coração é aqui:-)
Torço para que também influenciem o meu.

Outro abraço.

A Perspectiva de Quem Nasceu depois de 75???

Um bom amigo meu, um senhor de 35 anos aproximadamente, empresario de um start up bem sucedido, comentou o seguinte comigo em resposta a uma pergunta sobre os candidatos e a eleicao.  Temo que seja representativa.  Copio aqui:

🙂 Eleições… como diriam na Bahia: “vixe Maria”.

O André Esteves, dono do BTG, disse essa semana em um evento da Endeavor:

“De forma geral, acho que o resultado da eleição presidencial é muito difícil de prever e que isso não deveria afetar em nada a estratégia dos empreendedores. Obviamente, se a economia vai ficar ruim, não é hora de se alavancar. Mas não calque sua estratégia como um todo na visão econômica de longo prazo. Tenha pé no chão, e não monte a conclusão com base em um bom ou mau governo. Como regra geral, os bons negócios resistem aos maus governos. A própria história de crescimento do BTG nos últimos 30 anos é prova de que dá pra crescer com na bonança e na crise.”

De forma geral, acho que não vai mudar nada, Steve.
O Brasil vai continuar nas mãos do “Baixo Clero”. Gente muito ruim do ponto de vista gerencial, que vai ter que se coligar com gente pior ainda pra conseguir governar.
O Brasil só passa a ter alguma chance após uma reforma política corajosa.
Tenho pouca esperança de ver isso acontecer de verdade em vida.


A primeira coisa que vejo eh que ele da credito ao Andre Esteves, um investidor bem sucedido.  O segundo ponto eh mais importante e isto eh o comentario que o empresario tem que fazer e acontecer independentemente do bom ou mal governo.  Alguns podem questionar o Esteves e seu relacionamento com o governo mas sua citacao ainda vale.  O bom negocio deve ter exito mesmo com um governo aquem das expectativas.

Mais interessante ainda e a percepcao do meu amigo de que o Brasil atual esta e continuara nas maos do “baixo clero” e isto nao depende do resultado da eleicao.  Enfim o que ele expressa eh a parca legitimidade da classe politica.  Acredito que meu amigo eh um democrata e nao deseja o autoritarismo e vai votar na eleicao.  O que ele questiona eh a qualidade de quem participa como candidato.  Ele clama por uma reforma politca e interpreto isso como um pedido da melhoria geral do nivel de instrucao e informacao da populacao. 

Entretanto ha, na sua parte (e de sua geracao), desconfianca que algo realmente pode mudar.  Penso que realmente para ele eh mais dificil do que para minha geracao.  Na decada de 60 e 70, nosso objetivo claro era a (re)democratizacao do pais com o objetivo muito claro de tirar os militares do poder e estabelecer as eleicoes diretas.  Tivemos exito nestes objetivos limitados mas nao o suficiente para satisfazer as esperancas de nossos filhos.  O Brasil continuou desigual e com uma democracia mas sem a capacidade de atender as demandas que existem desde as coisas basicas como infra-estrutura de saneamento, estradas, saude e educacao ate coias mais abstratas como oportunidades de crescer como empresarios, individuos, profissionais etc.

Entao, meu amigo esta desencantado com as perspectivas e acha que as coisas nao vao mudar tao cedo.  (Mas mesmo assim esta trabalhando duro e fazendo sua empresa cresecer.)

Este desencanto estava presente nas manifestacoes de rua do ano passado e parece me que vai continuar ainda, ora aparente, ora difusa, por muito tempo.  E isto nao depende de quem saira vencedor(a) na eleicao de 2014.





Marina: Fenonemo, sera que dura?

Fernando Rodrigues em seu blog na UOL publicou que Jose Dirceu comenta com seus interlocutores que Marina e “o Lula de saia” e que ela sera eleita em 2014.  O pessoal de Dirceu, por outro lado, nega a afirmativa e dissem que ele eh proibido de conversar com jornalistas e portanto nao poderia emitir tal opiniao.  Marina, pela ultimas pesquisas, ja ultrapassou Aecio e poderia ganhar da Dilma num provavel segundo turno.  Enfim, a Marina eh um fenonemo.  Antes da morte do Eduardo Campos, o PSB estava com menos de 10 porcento das intencoes de voto.  Agora ja chega a casa dos 30% com Marina como sucessora, cabeca de chapa.

A questao entao e se ela pode aguentar o fogo que Dilma, Lula, Aecio e os demais politicos nao aliados estao lancando na sua direcao.  Os jornais tipo Estadao questionam sua postura politica.  Perguntem se ela eh diferente da Dilma e se ela nao tem uma tendencia autoritaria citando o exemplos de sua proposta de conselhos populares que ameacam as instituicoes democraticas tradicionais.  (Veja opiniao Estado de Sao Paulo, 31/08/2014, “Marina e a Democracia”.

Lula, por sua vez, critica Marina por sua admiracao ao Fernando Henrique Cardoso, e por sua equipe economica que eh formado por economistas da turma dos Tucanos.  Interessante, reparar que Caetano Veloso, que antes votou no Lula e o PT, declarou seu apoio a Marina e reconheceu a postura “liberal” mas achou aceitavel ja que os economistas sao “serios”.

Aecio, por sua vez, parece atonito como quem foi pego de surpresa pela ultrapassagem da ex-Senadora.  Entao Aecio vem pregando que Marina esta copiando e copiando mal seu programa de governo.  E ainda preve que ultrapassara a Marina dentro de um mes.

Comentei num blog “Sujando as Bandeiras” algumas das criticas que Marina esta enfrentando.  O problema adicional que vejo eh que ela na medida que cresce acaba perdendo a identidade.  A mesma coisa aconteceu com o PT.  O partido nao e mais aquele da decada de 80 e 90.  Marina ja recuou em seu apoio as causas sociais tipo casamento gay, ela ja vem sendo percebida como esquiva nos debates e assim o risco para ela e que ela perde o selo de diferente oferecendo uma politica nova.

A historia de vida da Marina nao deixa de ser impressionante.  Ha uma fala dela de 2 anos atras em TED Talks Rio.  Ai ela termina uma apresentacao de sua historia com versos de cordel.  Ela enfatiza o ser sobre o fazer mas agora precisamos saber o que eh a Marina como ser politica e como ela pretende fazer politica num quadro eleitoral onde a quantidade (dinheiro, tempo de TV, aliados “apropriados” sempre supera a qualidade e a pureza.