Rita Kakati Shah hails from London, UK and now lives in New York with her husband and two young kids. She began her professional career at Goldman Sachs in London, where she was awarded the prestigious Excellence in Citizenship and Diversity Award. Following a transition into the pharmaceutical industry, she took a career break of almost four years to raise her two children. She is now the Founder and CEO of Uma which she started in response to her own journey of motherhood and the difficulties of returning to a professional career. Uma empowers individuals returning to work after a career break or transition through networking events, confidence building workshops and curated job placements. From income disparity to paid family leave, she is not afraid of asking tough questions and making bold suggestions to help companies retain their employees. Rita has been featured as an expert on gender diversity and inclusion issues on TV Asia, TV BRICS, various podcasts, and been interviewed and quoted in various publications, such as Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Dell Technology, and is a contributor to Working Mother Magazine. This Beyond Mom shares with us the ways motherhood has impacted her ability to let go and laugh plus so much more!
“Love yourself first. This journey starts from within.” – Rita Kakati Shah
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
In all honesty I haven’t actually met a mother who isn’t a Beyond Mom. We are all so unique in our own ways. For me, as I travel a lot, it would be the ability to spend time with and bond with my two munchkins even when I am physically not with them. We use FaceTime a lot, and I still read to them every night – even if it means their night is early morning for me! Little things like that make the actual time we spend together that much more precious. When I return from trips, we all have so many stories and experiences to exchange. It really is about quality, not quantity.
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a mom?
LOL – other than in the literal sense of certain clothes just never fitting the same again, I would say my level of patience and overall tolerance. I have always been a perfectionist by nature, but you just learn to let things go and take things in your stride more often. Taking more deep breaths helps and just learning to laugh at little things that would otherwise drive you crazy.
Do you have a Beyond dream that you are pursing?
I am currently expanding Uma to take the mission global. The company is specific to helping those women who are looking to work after having kids. Issues of confidence, learning how to socialize again and just feeling human again is something we can all resonate with, no matter where in the world, or what our socioeconomic background is.
What relationships and activities help you stay connected to yourself?
Me time is important for us all. It’s all a self-discovery journey where we are not just taking time to “zone out’ but to love and cherish ourselves again, which is important for us all. For me, I love to travel, so off I go. My travel is mostly for work, but I also travel with friends, and we love to go as a family too. And me time isn’t just me by myself. It is date nights with my husband, or dinners with friends.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
“Be yourself as everyone else is already taken.” Some cite this to Oscar Wilde, but others debate the source. Either way, it’s certainly a powerful message in self-confidence and just being bold and proud to be who we are. We actually modeled Uma’s tagline around this belief too: Be Bold. Be You. Be Uma.
What causes and topics are you most passionate about right now?
Professionally, I am hired by companies and forums to speak about gender equality, diversity and inclusion and unconscious bias for example, and of course the many, many issues related to women returning to work after a career break. These topics not only resonate with me but are the backbone of Uma. In particular, the lack of a maternity leave policy in the US is my biggest woe right now, as solving this, would in effect solve many of the other issues in the process. I could speak for hours on this topic!
How do you think we can change our culture from one in which a woman is expected to be a “perfect mother” to one in which she is encouraged to discover and explore her evolving self?
A lot of the time we put the pressure on ourselves to be a perfect mother. You could argue this comes from culture, but it could also be an inner competitive nature that we as women naturally possess to outperform our own beliefs. Some of this comes from our peer group, some from the support (or lack of) at home and the perceived norm of what our mothers or in-laws did way back when. In terms of how to change our culture – well, I think it all boils down to our own self-confidence and regard for ourselves first and foremost. Love yourself first. This journey starts from within.
Favorite go-to’s for:
Beyond Food (what do you cook & where do you go locally?)
I don’t actually cook much at all for myself, but do for the kids. I will pre-prepare their entire menu for the week ahead though – a mixture of hearty British food like chicken and shephard’s pie or traditional Assamese food like ghugni (chick peas) and rice. My husband actually enjoys cooking though, so at the weekend he makes them pasta, meatballs, chicken kiev, etc. For ourselves though, we are both pretty swamped by the time we get home from work, so will order in, or go out for dinner. We are both foodies so like to try new restaurants with great reviews.
Beyond Content (Books & Podcasts)
When I have the time, I like to visit my local book store – Book Culture – on the Upper West Side, as they have great story time readings for the kids at the weekend, and some evenings will have book readings with selected authors. Podcasts, full disclosure I was a featured guest on both of these, so am naturally a bit biased, but I really like the depth and content of Sarah Kathleen Peck’s Startup Pregnant and Allison Summers’ Disruptive CEO Nation.
For evening wear, I tend to gravitate more towards European boutique brands that are either French or Italian, and work clothes anything that is smart and comfortable, such as The Fold from London. Day to day could be from anywhere in the world. As long as I can be comfortable and it is weather appropriate I am happy!
Admittedly, my travel schedule disrupts the regularity, but when I can, I love taking Zumba classes at my local gym by my apartment. I’ve been going to the same gym ever since the kids were just babies, so there is a sense of familiarity and community which I love. And for those of my friends who know me – I love to dance! So when I hit the dance floor – and if the kids are with me – they do too!