The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile up-and-coming women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a rising star for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at [email protected] or Penny Zacharias at [email protected].
Mary Beth Brosnihan is an investment professional at McCarthy Capital, which she joined in 2021. Her responsibilities include evaluating new investment opportunities, structuring and executing private investments, and management oversight of portfolio investments. Prior to joining McCarthy Capital, she worked in PE. Brosnihan earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, earned an MS from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and holds a BS of foreign service, international politics in foreign policy and policy process from Georgetown University.
Q: What both attracted you to PE but potentially concerned you about this chosen career path?
Mary Beth Brosnihan: There were several aspects of PE that initially attracted me and continue to hold my interest. First, the opportunity to delve into a wide range of industries and directly influence investment outcomes intrigued me. From analyzing the pet toy industry to diving into the medical staffing sector, the breadth and depth of industry segments always fascinated me. While I considered both hedge funds and PE, I ultimately chose PE due to its ability to effect change with management and provide more stable returns and longer fund lives. Building long-term relationships with management and having a greater say in company growth plans were important factors for me.
Another appealing aspect of PE is the chance to work with some of the brightest minds in the industry. Collaborating with such talented founders, CEOs and colleagues not only provides immense learning opportunities but also creates a stimulating work environment. Additionally, the industry offers measurable performance metrics on a quarterly and monthly basis, which I find both rewarding and motivating. Witnessing the direct impact of an investment on a sector and seeing the public interact with a product or service I’ve invested in are truly exciting.
However, I must admit I had concerns when initially pursuing a career in PE. The level of competition and the narrow recruiting funnel from investment banking internships to PE were intimidating, especially for someone coming from a non-business undergraduate background. Nonetheless, I recognized that persistence, resourcefulness and a strong desire to work in PE were crucial assets for navigating the early stages of my career in the industry.
Q: How do you believe women of your generation will be able to influence the PE industry, particularly as the career path continues to evolve?
MBB: As a female PE investment professional of my generation, I believe we are playing a vital role in shaping the future of the industry. We have the opportunity to make a significant impact on female representation across all aspects of deal-making. Working alongside other talented women in the deal-making community has been a pleasure, and supporting their career progression has been rewarding.
I also see my generation as catalysts for increased investment in female founders. For instance, my firm recently invested in a female-founded nonalcoholic cocktail brand called Aplós. This opportunity arose through my connections with another female investor. I’m looking forward to backing more female founders in the future.
Q: Who is an example of someone who inspired you in PE and why?
MBB: One individual who has been a constant source of inspiration for me in the PE industry is Damien Dwin, the founder of Brightwood Capital and Lafayette Square. He took a chance on me by offering me my first internship in the sector, and his mentorship has been invaluable.
Throughout his career, Damien has served as a mentor to countless individuals, exemplifying the importance of giving back and supporting aspiring PE professionals. Originally from a humble background, his story and accomplishments continue to motivate me, and I strive to follow in his footsteps by making time for others and providing guidance whenever possible.
Q: What is a lesson that you have learned concerning what’s required for success in PE?
MBB: In my experience, the single most important quality for success and survival in PE is grit. The industry demands resilience, determination and the ability to overcome challenges. For a female investor, having a high level of confidence is always essential, from pursuing a potential transaction with your investment committee, to strategizing at a board meeting. It’s crucial to believe in oneself and assertively navigate the dynamics of a competitive field.
Additionally, I’ve learned that PE is a long-term endeavor. It’s vital to find a style of PE that aligns with your interests and seek a firm that fits your cultural values. Building a fulfilling career in PE requires finding a place where you can contribute value and envision yourself thriving for the long haul.
To contact Mary Beth Brosnihan, email [email protected].