The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity (PE). To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at email@example.com.
Melissa Mounce joined GTCR in 2019 as a managing director for leadership talent and diversity. She manages the identification and recruitment of Leaders Strategy CEOs and management teams. Prior to joining GTCR, Mounce was the principal of human capital at Baird Capital. She also has held business strategy and consulting roles at Motorola, E&Y and Capgemini and strategic human capital and talent management roles at PNC Bank, Aon and Abbott.
Mounce earned a bachelor's in international business from Illinois State University and an MBA from Northern Illinois University. She serves on the board of the Lyric Opera and is a member of The International Women's Forum (Chicago Chapter).
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Melissa Mounce: I always say I was recruited into PE at 30,000 feet. Several years ago, while on a flight from Chicago to California, I fortuitously had a seat assignment next to a partner from Baird Capital. After discussing my operational and human capital skill set, he saw the value of a role within their portfolio operations team. The role was particularly interesting to me because it was intellectually stimulating, fast-moving and results were apparent. Seeing PE acknowledge the critical role that talent plays in a portfolio company's success and investing in it was really exciting — and I liked being on the forefront of an evolving industry.
My career did not begin in PE, and my path to the industry really was a culmination of several experiences. Whether it was my time as a road warrior consultant focusing on large transformation projects for blue-chip clients or as an operational leader developing capacity management processes, I've leveraged my professional services and operational skills knowledge, along with my understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the private market, to provide great value within the human capital function. As the PE industry continues to evolve, I'm thrilled to play a key role in identifying portfolio company and firm leaders who bring tremendous value and success to their work. I'm also proud to spearhead GTCR's diversity initiatives, which have presented an opportunity to expand my role at the firm.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
MM: It's not a secret that PE is a male-dominated industry. More than ever, there's recognition that diversity of thought and background is extremely valuable as deal professionals evaluate different investment opportunities. Of course, diversity goes beyond gender, but women bring a unique perspective to PE that traditionally has not been considered. Simply put, blind spots exist in PE and women have proven valuable in sharing considerations and perspectives about the corporate environment and deal possibilities. There's great opportunity for more women to use their unique skill sets, experiences and knowledge to provide balance to the deal-making process and corporate boards. The best teams are those that bring many ideas and experiences to the table, and women certainly have many contributions to make within PE.
As we enter a post-pandemic corporate culture shift, now is an ideal time for more women to enter the field, with potential to make a big impact. As female leaders, we need to foster these opportunities. As a female in the PE industry, I hold myself accountable to network with women who exhibit potential and possess many of the important skills needed in PE, such as analytical and strategic thinking, resourcefulness and ambition.
Q: How has female talent acquisition changed/evolved in PE during the past few years?
MM: Particularly now, PE firms are seeking qualified women to join their deal teams. The pool of female candidates has been small, but in recent years it certainly has grown as more women are considering PE and firms are being more creative with the backgrounds of individuals they hire.
Beyond investment banking, firms also are considering executives with experience in industries that are "first cousins" of PE — including advisory services, corporate development and mergers and acquisitions — which has opened the doors for more women to enter PE. With a concerted effort to hire more women in PE, females who have proven successes at PE firms have become highly sought-after because of their experience and the current diversity initiatives of firms. I look forward to seeing a continued evolution that significantly elevates women within the industry, recognizing their leadership and contributions.
Q: What qualities do you see as most important for a PE portfolio company female leader to possess?
MM: As with all PE portfolio company C-suite executives, demonstrating exceptional leadership skills is paramount. Possessing a laser focus on growth strategy and speed of execution also are important qualities. Demonstrating industry expertise and owning a unique perspective will raise the profile of female leaders. While often unspoken, having a solid understanding of how business is transacted within the PE space and speaking that language translate to success more quickly.
Q: How are PE firms and portfolio companies evolving to be more diverse and inclusive?
MM: This is a pivotal time throughout many industries, particularly within PE, as firms examine the diversity within their organizations and actively expand it to build a strong and inclusive culture that drives corporate transformations and makes investment theses a reality. While diversity is extremely important, it's a first step.
Building a strong corporate culture also requires inclusivity efforts to retain exceptional talent. For these efforts to be successful, many PE firms are following a top-down and bottom-up approach to diversity and inclusion. Successful efforts include leadership support by acknowledging the importance of the initiatives and encouraging the rest of the organization to embrace everyone’s differences and the value they bring to the corporate culture. When employees are given a forum to recognize and celebrate the diversity of colleagues, they're able to express ideas and pursue innovation without judgment.
I'm pleased to see the path the industry has taken to recognize and embrace diversity and inclusion initiatives. I look forward to contributing to the continuation of this evolution, particularly as women hold more leadership roles within private equity.
To contact Melissa Mounce, call 312.382.2154.