SÃO PAULO, Brazil — It was a casual conversation that led Luiza Trajano, one of Brazil’s wealthiest women, to ponder her country’s racism, to recognize her part in it — and to do something about it.
A few years back, she said, she had heard a young, accomplished Black businesswoman mention that she never attended happy hours with colleagues unless her boss explicitly asked her to join. Years of feeling the rejection that many Black Brazilians experience in predominantly white settings had taught her to seek clear invitations, the woman explained.
Ms. Trajano, who is white, felt a pang of sadness. Then an uncomfortable thought crossed her mind.
“At my birthday parties, there aren’t any Black women,” Ms. Trajano remembered thinking. “That’s structural racism that, in my case, is not born out of rejection, but out of failing to seek them out.”
That moment of introspection for Ms. Trajano, who had turned a small family business into a retail behemoth, helped plant the seeds for a bold corporate affirmative action initiative, which has drawn praise, outrage and plenty of soul searching in Brazil.