The “adventure” of the previous months has consequences, but we are currently working on a strong rebound. Rania Ekaterinari, Chief Executive Officer of Hellenic Corporation for Assets and Participations (HCAP), is dynamic and does not hide it.
We have all the means to achieve this, she points out, unveiling that the companies of the wider public sector which are included in the HCAP portfolio have investment plans of approximately 1.5 billion euros. Needless to say, HCAP’s head admits that work is required in order to change the established older perceptions, referring to gender equality.
It is not so much a matter of politics as of an established mentality, she points out, and continues: “When a man speaks with dynamism, he is a leader. A woman doing the same usually receives critisism.”
Now that we are on the way out of the health crisis, what is the biggest lesson but also the most important goal?
“The main lesson to learn is that, in the current environment, nothing can be taken anymore for granted and that conditions can change rapidly overnight. This makes new leadership models even more important, as well as the teams which work with goals and have a good collaboration. For us, the cooperation and trust which we have built with our subsidiaries is our greatest resource, and this was made obvious during the lockdown, but it is also evident in the way we organize for the next day. The greatest conclusion is also the most obvious one: the future is safeguarded through strong leadership, employees and technology”.
How will we seize the post-crisis day?
The “adventure” we experienced in the previous months has apparent consequences and repercussions. But what we need to achieve now is a strong rebound. This, if you will, is an attitude to life. We are not intimidated of missing one shot, as long as we are able to achieve the unexpected. We are working for a strong rebound and I think we have all the means to achieve it. This is why we must note the importance of implementation for the investment plans of large State-Owned Enterprises. This demands maturity and access to financing. With regard to the first, the management teams of the State-Owned Enterprises are working persistently, whilst concerning the second, the projects which are currently on the table reach 1.5 billion euros, while for their financing, the companies’ own resources will be utilized, along with enhanced by European schemes and, in some cases, bank lending.
What do you consider to be your central priority in this phase?
The digital leap. The pandemic forces us to accelerate and we must seize the opportunity it brought.
In all HCAP’s companies, management teams are working for the implementation of projects which relate to new technologies. For instance, the Athens Urban Transport Organisation (OASA) promotes projects relating to the fuel management system, vehicle technical inspection and passenger information. At the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP), smart cash devices are installed, while advanced control systems for networks and facilities are being designed. At GAIAOSE, blockchain technology applications in the field of real estate portfolio management are designed. Additionally, and in order to prepare for the digital age in the wider public sector, we established the “Innovation Network”, which constitutes a platform for dialogue and know-how exchange among HCAP’s companies for technological applications and good practices from abroad. There are many possibilities and we are trying to make the best use of them. I believe that in one or two years, we will be discussing more about the impact of new technologies on the services and products we offer. We shall have a different agenda”.
Are you generally optimistic?
I am, provided that we are all doing our part. I mean, it is wrong all of us to expect from someone else, the Government, the European Commission, the Markets, Fate, to achieve what we need. The management of the 15 companies of the wider public sector in HCAP’s portfolio have a lot to do. Our mission is to encourage them, to facilitate them and afterwards to evaluate their effectiveness. We will continue doing this in the future with even more persistence.
Do you believe there are obstacles for a woman who runs a large group of companies? How important is diversity?
Let’s be honest. Just the fact that we felt so nice with the election of a renowned woman as the President of the Hellenic Republic reflects the early stage we are at. But it is not just a matter of politics, it is also a matter of mentality and practical approach in everyday life. When a man is busy and works long hours, he is considered active and successful. In the case of a woman, people wonder if she finds time to deal with her family or whether she will burn out any time soon, because they do not believe that she can handle difficulties. When a man speaks with dynamism, he is a considered a leader. However, a woman doing the same is usually criticized. I believe that efforts are still required in order to change older established perceptions, and this is also evident by the relevant statistics in boards and top management.
So, it is rather difficult for a female manager to become established in this role?
I have been serving in similar positions for several years now and this has stopped concerning me personally. I am also a working mother and there is really no better feeling than being a role model for your children and at the same time a secure haven as well as a source of inner strength which supports them in every step, regardless if you work long hours or not. With respect to career, I believe that women today are equally educated and possess capabilities particularly necessary for this changing environment, for instance resilience, adaptability and pragmatism. They have a strong sense of responsibility and justice, pursuing the common good and having a long-term vision. I believe we are more receptive to change, especially when stereotypes and old taboos need to be surpassed, and this makes it easier for work outside our comfort zone, seeking change and promoting new views when required. Non the less, at HCAP, we have made substantial progress. In the Boards of Directors of our subsidiaries, from almost zero levels, we have accomplished that 22% of the Board Members are now women with remarkable CVs. But this is not enough. This has to increase, so that these women can be a model for the next generation of executives and not exceptions to the rule.
Should there be quotas which require women to participate in positions of responsibility?
I am not sure it is a matter of quotas, nor that equality can be enforced as a formal obligation. I am discussing something more essential; the respect, the empathy we must demonstrate in everyday life. To have the ability of understanding each other, without a lot of words. I am excited because lately in HCAP we have made progress. We promote in our subsidiaries, values and policies of equality and fair treatment of people, individual rights and respect for diversity. As part of the corporate reality in which management teams have to conduct, we ask for rudimental things like: Adherence and implementation of the principles of equal opportunities and fair treatment. Respecting diversity in the workforce and seeking to promote inclusion, in order to contribute to the promotion of parity, mutual respect, acceptance and social cohesion. We have also launched relevant seminars, in which executives from the HCAP companies participate, and I believe that there is progress made even if it is not yet visible. The new generation of employees demonstrates higher sensitivity, but the older ones also realize the value of an inclusive world which allows everyone to live with dignity.