Amita Mehta Is Living Out Loud
This proud lesbian life coach proves
anything’s possible, by example
“There’s so many dimensions and intersectionality to my journey and my story,” says career and leadership coach Amita Mehta, and so there are many words one could use to describe her: Only daughter to conservative parents, woman, lesbian, refugee, Indian, Amish, business strategist and CEO. Mehta’s seen and done it all, from Wall Street to our streets.
“Connecticut is like a secret gem,” Mehta told CT Voice in a recent Zoom conversation. “I often traveled there and got to work with some amazing people.” Her Connecticut connections led to her landing an opportunity earlier this year, to speak at the YWCA New Britain’s Biennial Women in Leadership Luncheon. CT Voice was a proud sponsor of the event, which drew hundreds of people to the Aqua Turf in Plantsville on May 12.
That day, Mehta delivered a powerful keynote address, including the story of how she came out to her parents during a tour of Lower Manhattan. First, she told her mother, who made her promise not to tell her father. “That, to me, was just heart wrenching to hear,” she says. But not as difficult as the next words her mother said, when her dad asked them, “What do we want to do next?”
Her mom says, “Tell him!”
“Tell me what?” says her dad.
“In that moment, I was feeling this sense of terror and fear that I was saying goodbye to my parents,” Mehta said. “And also, I felt this sense of relief and release that I was actually going to be living my truth here. And so, I’m convulsing, I’m crying. It’s echoing throughout the Winter Garden and everybody scatters. I was making noises that I never thought I had inside me.”
“Are you sick?” he asked.
“I’m a lesbian,” Mehta told her father. His response left her speechless: “Well, Dick Cheney’s daughter is a lesbian. And you know, she’s pregnant with her partner. They’re having a baby.”
“He asked, ‘Are you happy?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And that’s when he said, ‘Look, you’re still our daughter. We love you.’”
But her mother had the last word, telling Mehta: “If you get divorced or if you break up, you’re marrying an Indian man!” Unfortunately, that relationship did end in divorce, but she says she’s now very happily partnered with another woman. “I like to call us ‘The HinJews. She’s Jewish, I’m Hindu, and now we’re the HinJews!”
Those attending the luncheon gave Mehta a rousing standing ovation when she finished, but it’s what happened next that sticks with her all these months later.
“What I found interesting was having people come up to me afterwards, after the event, to say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m an immigrant,’ or ‘I’m a refugee,’ or ‘I know what it feels like to have an ally.’ And so, for me, it was just an amazing experience to not only lean into who I am as a woman, a lesbian, but to be able to share the fact that I do enjoy leaning into my culture, my history, and my past.”
Mehta’s family enjoyed an affluent life in Uganda, until 1972, when former military ruler Idi Amin expelled them, along with 50,000 other Asians, accusing them of “milking Uganda’s money.”
“We landed here as refugees with no money, and we had to rely on the Head Start program for at-risk youth, to rely on the government for assistance to get back on our feet,” says Mehta, who was just a child at the time.
Her parents raised Mehta and her brothers in Amish country, where the first work they could find was gluing soles on shoes. Mehta says she struggled to discover her identity as an American.
“I just wanted to be the all-American kid, so I would hide my culture or hide who I was,” she says, a response to the obstacles in her way tied to her gender and her ethnicity. “I just felt like there were always these roadblocks that I would face.”
To overcome those, she turned a childhood pastime into a skill that propelled her career spanning more than two decades as an executive in financial services: Her love of sports.
“I have three brothers,” who forced me to play sports so they could compete 2-on-2, says Mehta. And before long, she started to excel at sports.
“That gave me a bit of an edge relating to men, particularly in the workplace. I learned how to play golf,” she says. As the only under-represented minority working in a commercial lending department otherwise filled with white males, she learned not just how to play, but how business gets done.
Mehta says that insight helped her move up at major companies, including J.P. Morgan Chase and Prudential Financial. In her almost 25 years in financial services, she developed a reputation as a trailblazer and trusted advisor to C-Suite executives. In 2018, she launched her own consulting practice as a business strategist and career architect. Her company is AMP, which stands for Amita Mehta Possible. Say that out loud and you’ll hear yourself deliver her clever tag line, “Amita Made It Possible.”
She says her expertise in diversity, equity and inclusion helps companies distinguish themselves from their competition, build sustainable bottom-line results, increase their return on investment and positively impact the communities they serve.
As CEO of AMP, Mehta helps others to find their silver linings: “Having hope and a sense of humor has served me well.”