“We want equal opportunities for all women”

Vanessa Moreira, leader of Empodera Elas, talks about how this Pólen group debates equity at work

Empodera Elas was the first Pólen committee, which brings together groups formed by iFood employees to discuss issues related to black people, LGBTQIAP+ It is disabled and the free body. 

The initiative, created in 2017, aimed to communicate women's needs to the company's leadership. Five years later, it is accompanied by more than a thousand women (from interns to directors), and its monthly meetings are becoming fortnightly.

“From August onwards, one of them will always focus on motherhood, which is a very strong demand, and the other will address general themes, to move gender discussions forward”, explains the current leader of Empodera Elas, Vanessa da Silva Moreira , strategic accounts executive at iFood. “We want to empower women and create an environment of equity at work.”

When she says “women”, it is like that, in the plural, dealing with specific issues for those who are mothers, black, trans, LGBTQIAP+ or have a disability, among many others. In an interview with iFood News, she talks about the importance of this diversity and of engaging men and leaders in this movement.

iFN – How did your story with Empodera Elas begin?

Vanessa – I joined iFood in 2018 and became part of Empodera Elas in 2021. In 2020, I had my daughter and returned from maternity leave in December. At the beginning of 2021, I discovered that there was a women-only channel on Slack [the messaging application used in the company] and I joined, both to find out what was going on and to have a relationship network, because I live in Salvador and wanted to expand my circle.

To my surprise, the conversations were quite varied. There was discussion about motherhood, career, harassment, gender theories in the job market, difference in opportunities between men and women. It wasn't about iFood, it was about everything the women had experienced on their journey there. 

One story that stood out to me was that of a professional saying how challenging it was to stop straightening her curly hair and go through a hair transition, how this affected her self-esteem and leadership position, because this affects every woman's confidence. I liked knowing that there was a space within the company to talk about these issues positively. I felt it was a safe environment to share experiences. 

iFN – And today, what is the group’s objective?

Vanessa – We want to empower women and create an environment of equity at work, which is welcoming to everyone, across all backgrounds: black women, mothers, trans women, women with disabilities. In our conversation to think about Pollen at the beginning of 2022, we talked a lot about intersectionality, which is a very strong issue today. Let's talk about all women so that everyone can identify with the group. 

In our discussions, we want to bring voices from diverse women and also talk about free bodies, fatphobia, community issues LGBTQIAP+. We need to look at different worlds and discover how we can help each other to have a better environment, a better society.

Here, we talk about the importance of women coming together and having affirmative vacancies. It is necessary to accept that there is inequality between genders and understand how men and women can act to achieve equality. 

iFood has its goals to increase the inclusion of women. What we do is help achieve them by promoting education to have a conducive environment for women. Our role is to look at how women are welcomed, welcomed, and how they are treated here.

An example: my daughter started school last week. So I worked every morning at the school reception because it was adapting. This makes us wonder: how is a leader looking at this? When we welcome a transgender woman, iFood welcomes and provides financial assistance for the transition. But what is the environment like when she returns to work? It is necessary to have a culture of appreciation and respect for all women.

iFN – How are these issues brought to leadership?

Vanessa – From our conversations at the monthly meetings, there is a reflection of its own, which each one takes with them, and themes also arise that we can address to the Diversity and Inclusion or People area, especially when we talk about benefits.

I try to convey to leaders what our needs are and our ideas about what is working and what can be improved. In this way, we collaborate to improve internal policies, benefits and the offer of affirmative vacancies for women. And this is happening on iFood. Here in Salvador, on my team, we recently opened a vacancy for a woman who was a mother, to have more diversity. Of the executive team, only I am currently a mother.

iFN – How is the dialogue with men in the company?

Vanessa – At iFood there are leaders who defend diversity goals very strongly. At this moment, our challenge is to expand conversations with middle leadership so that this more diverse environment becomes a reality. 

There's no point in just having women arguing. We're not going to change the world with just women looking at women's issues, black and Asian people looking at the racism or just the LGBTQIAP+ community holding their Gay Pride Parade. We need everyone's involvement. 

I believe we have to bring everyone into the conversation. If society is diverse, the company must be too. If you don't belong to that minority group, go to the general forum to find out what it's like. Men need to know the reality of women to have empathy. With this empathy we can bring them to the change we want to happen.

iFN – How can men be allies of women in the workplace?

Vanessa – A man can be an ally when he respects a woman, when he does not make sexist comments, for example. As a leader, you can create affirmative vacancies or, at least, equal working conditions. 

If an employee is a mother and doesn't have flexible working hours, this manager is taking opportunities away from her. A single employee starts from a different place than a married woman with children. So it is the leader's role to create a flexible environment for people from different backgrounds to deliver. You can't create a unique environment, a standardized box, you know?

iFN – What is your big dream?

Vanessa – My big, big, big dream is to have an Empodera Elas just to talk about amenities [laughs]. Because this means that we will have resolved gender issues, there will be equity, and the group will be a space for us to laugh or to talk about human difficulties, and not just gender.

After I became a mother, I realized that participating in Empodera Elas is my opportunity to contribute to a greater cause. I'm planting seeds so that my daughter, who is now two years old, can have a world that is one or two steps better than the one we are having.

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