Reducing the gender gap by increasing female participation in private capital: an interview with Anna Raptis
On 23 February, HHM had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Raptis, an Australian-born chartered financial analyst, investor of IMPACT, and co-founder of Voz Experta, Mujeres Inviertiendo and Amplifica Capital. In this interview, we asked to learn more about her experiences throughout her career, her perspective of the business world and leadership as a woman in Latin America, and the inspiration behind her co-founded investment fund, Amplifica Capital.
In commemoration of International Women’s History Day, we would like to share the highlights of findings and words of advice from Anna Raptis to help encourage other women who are aspiring to be business professionals and entrepreneurs on a global scale.
What have you done to reach this point in your career?
I grew up in a family business environment, and I have always been interested in economic development. I did my master’s degree in International Economics and International Relations. When I finished my masters, I started working at the World Bank. I moved into the private sector, and that’s how I looked to find companies in Mexico that focus on developing energy infrastructure and developing gas power plans, and really delivering more efficient, safer, cleaner energy to the public.
Over the last few years, I became more involved in different issues around gender and became the co-founder of a group in Mexico called “Voz Experta”. When I was working in the energy sector, I saw many highly qualified women, but very few women participating in public events to go to panels, we would see only men in the panels. We created “Voz Experta” to give visibility and participation to women professionals in the energy sector. Along the same lines, with other women working in private capital, we founded a group called “Mujeres Invirtiendo” where we look to support women in the private capital space because there is such little presentation and participation of women as leaders in private capital.
Can you briefly explain the intention and motivation behind Amplifica Capital?
When I became more aware of different gender barriers, not only in Mexico but around the world, that led me to launch Amplifica Capital. We are increasing the participation of women in private capital by getting more women to participate as investors. When you do that, firms with greater participation in women have a lot more investment in firms that are led by women or in goods and services that are beneficial to women. One of the motivating factors is that Mexico was ranked 124 out of 153 countries in terms of the gender gap for opportunities and participation in the economy. The objective is to help change that number and take actions of change.
There is a lot more interest in Mexico and worldwide in terms of ESG and investing with a purpose, and one of the things we are trying to do is help women understand that they do have economic power. We do not delegate our political power by letting someone vote for us, nor should we delegate our financial power by letting someone who doesn’t necessarily represent our values and views make these decisions around where our money goes. I enjoy working with entrepreneurs, both men and women who are innovating and looking to solve problems we have in Latin America that challenges people in their daily lives.
Which types of companies does Amplifica Capital invest in?
We look into what are mainly known as Pre-Seed and Seed companies which are very early-stage companies. We invest in these companies as they grow. They have to be companies that are using technology so that they can scale and have a greater impact, and they have to be companies that are addressing important problems that we are facing in Latin America. To date, we have made 4 investments. Kolors, a company that addresses the transportation needs between cities, for example between Puebla and Mexico City, to create better transportation options. Then, we have Agtools in Agritech pace, so getting information to the producers so they can optimize their supply chain production and send products to markets. Encantos is in the Education sector where they are providing bilingual education. 4th one, Clupp, is in the insurance sector or “insurtech”, and they are making quite innovative models of mobility insurance.
What are some aspects of the corporate world that still need to change to facilitate a more inclusive and equal environment?
We must recognize that people have different demands on their time, and when we think about men and women in the workplace, both men and women may have parenting responsibilities. One area that is very important is giving flexible working hours to parents no matter what gender they have so that if a father needs to take time off to spend time with his children or take them to appointments or sports, the father should be just as entitled to do that as the mother is. At times we are given more flexible working hours for women and not men. Rather than helping women, it can actually hold women back because they force the stereotype as the mother being the primary caregiver. What would help in the workplace is to have work leave for everyone.
Particularly in Mexico, before the covid situation, there were very long working hours in the office and we need to focus more on output rather than input, so encouraging productivity and encouraging people to be as productive as they can rather than working very long hours. That is more strenuous on women than men given that women typically provide more of a parenting role. To the extent that we could be more flexible in the workplace, and give men and women flexibility to tend to their families, that it is a big step forward to allow both men and women to achieve their potential in the workplace to not be limited by outdated gender biases.
What advice would you give to other women who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs or business professionals?
I would say that you have to believe in yourself, and it is very important to try because we only live once, life is not a dress rehearsal. A challenging situation is when you have regrets, and sometimes it’s not the external factors, but it’s us that limit ourselves when we do not believe in ourselves. I have had times where I have 2 young children, I have all kinds of commitments, and I cannot possibly do other tasks. But what helped me is to hear the stories of other women and how they stepped outside of these boundaries and decided to try different things. Then I realize those limitations that I thought were all boundaries are not truly there, they were just made up in my mind.
We need to push those barriers and not accept the boundaries that other people impose on us or the false constructs of society, we have to get out there and try. When you try to build something without succeeding, that is not failure. We all learn through trying, and that is one of the best teachers. Taking a risk and trying something new is a great thing to do. Some women may find that even harder than men do.