Tracy Gracy is a US-born visionary leader who grew up in a diverse environment. Her early exposure to international cultures, as she grew up with a Japanese-speaking community, became her foundation in pursuing projects that diversify markets, targeting women and BIPOC-owned companies, and creating jobs. Check this full podcast episode to learn about the global impacts of her holistic investment strategy on women and people of color.
As a child of an Air Force officer who stayed in Japan, Tracy recalls fond memories of learning about numbers and problem-solving. She carried these skills as she grew up and moved to the US to study. She knew her strengths in mathematics would be useful if she pursued a career in math or engineering. Most people expect that women in this field would go the teaching path.
However, Tracy was determined to forge her own way in life and not simply follow society’s expectations for women. She found herself drawn towards math and loved aeronautics, so she took advantage of an opportunity at UC Santa Barbara by combining both interests with a degree focused on mathematical science and aeronautics. She encourages young women to challenge society’s expectations and pursue their goals.
“If there’s someone young trying to figure out their decision in going to school and listening, I would say, don’t be afraid to do what you really want and to say what you want. If I wouldn’t have said I wanted to do this and create this, take this chance and create this my own major almost, I would have had a whole different life path probably, but whatever gave me not being fearful about asking that was really fortunate.”
When Tracy went to college, she knew that her academic strength would be useful in getting opportunities. But it turned out the one thing more important than knowledge is networking and connecting with people from different cultural backgrounds.
She got a stint as a Systems Engineer for NASA spatial program after graduating from college then served as the Senior Advisor to the Mayor for International Business.
“I have great friends to this day that I could probably call for anything, and you know, you go through boot camp together, and no one else understands that. I mean, there’s that analogy to my father. He had great friends from when he was in Vietnam and Korea because no one really understands what you go through unless you’re there. So you need those people. And yeah, so great network around the world I have from that time.”
Getting an MBA After Years of Experience in International Business
Tracy observed the lack of support for women and people from diverse backgrounds, so she set out to change it. She saw how business firms almost exclusively hire white men when they are granted funding or opportunities in their industry; this clearly does not reflect reality since an abundance of talented individuals doesn’t look like them. Tracy wanted to give more opportunities and recognize these women and people of color with brilliant minds. For instance, the Executive Director at the non-profit she previously worked for was constantly talked down by real estate developers, not knowing that she represents the displaced residents with her deep knowledge in real estate law as she worked with a top law firm.
“When I was working at the non-profit, the Executive Director, she had her law degree and worked in real estate development law. When she was running this nonprofit, she was fighting for the rights of the community to not be displaced from development. So she’d be at the negotiating table with these developers and their lawyers. They would just talk so down to her the whole time, trying to educate her about what development is really like, and you don’t know what you’re talking about. And then she sits there and be quiet.
And when they finished, she’d tell them what she knew, and they didn’t even take the time to do research to see that she worked at a top law firm on their side of the equation. And she’s like a superwoman and takes off her suit, and underneath there’s that cape, and I was like, okay, I need an MBA for my cape. I need that. And so I’m not just going to get one MBA from one top 10 schools; I need to get two. And that’s how I ended up getting Berkeley and Columbia MBA, and I could still be my lazy self and not have to go to both schools, you know, not have to go to two different schools, but could get it all with one degree. Yeah, and that’s how I did it. “
We Are Enough: The TEDx Talk That Became Tracy’s Turning Point
Tracy’s transition from helping the mayor’s office generate funds for its projects to securing money for her non-profit organization made her realize that many women are not educated enough when it comes to their finances. She found this topic to touch on an even greater subject: empowering female citizens to make better financial decisions. Her personal experiences and those of other women were the inspiration behind her successful TEDx Talk.
“And so I started We Are Enough after I did this talk, all these women were coming up to me, and I thought I was just talking about finance, but they were crying. Like women were crying over a finance talk. And that is where I saw, okay, this is a deep trauma, deep work that women need to do around our money and our power around money, and our being okay with power, and so I launched We Are Enough in 2016 to educate. The only thing we do is educate everyday women on why and how to invest in women in businesses or with a gender lens on the public markets. Because when you grow women’s wealth, all those Sustainable Development Goals that you hear a lot about, the majority of them are positively impacted by women growing their wealth, having more wealth, everything from getting rid of sex trafficking to more education, to climate change, everything changes when women have more wealth.”
The 22 Fund and the Portfolia Green Sustainability Fund
Using her experience in venture capitals, Tracy leads in helping women and BIPOC build generational wealth through a holistic investing strategy in The 22 Fund and Portfolia Green Sustainability Fund. The 22 Fund is an early growth venture capital and advisory firm focused on increasing the export capacity of U.S. manufacturing companies, positioning these companies to accelerate growth and scale via international sales. Its mission is to create the clean, quality jobs of the future in underserved communities. And the Portfolia Green Sustainability Fund serves as the investment committee of a fund that takes care of due diligence and business plans analysis.
“We call ourselves holistic investors, not impact investors because we hit multiple positive impacts. It’s not siloed with climate change, race, or gender economic development, and we hit it all just from this one strategy in investing in manufacturing to increase their export capacity.”
A Holistic Investment Strategy with Strong Social Impact
Tracy is a passionate advocate for women and people from diverse cultures, whose experiences have deeply shaped her work. She’s traveled internationally to 42 countries where she’s seen first-hand how different social landscapes can impact economic empowerment levels among certain groups in society.
“Black people’s history, the trauma of many races and ethnicities, always informs our work, and it should inform our work. If someone’s not tapped into that in themselves, I recommend tapping into that because there’s some deep strength you can get from the power of your ancestors and remembering what they did. That’s how I feel like I can help change the world, tapping into my ancestors and those who came before me.”
In order to have a global investment strategy that has a global impact, Tracy emphasizes that it is important that we understand the trauma of other groups of people. To learn more about Tracy Gary’s work and her podcast episode, click here.