Look at failure and hardship as a learning experience. Life will throw you a lot of curveballs both in your personal life and in business but how I define success is not EVER having these moments. It’s about having these moments and having the optimism and courage to move through it and come out of the other end more powerful than you were before.
How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mona Amin.
Dr. Mona Amin aka @pedsdoctalk on Instagram is a mom, pediatrician, and founder of “The New Mom’s Survival Guide” educating new parents on how to navigate baby’s first year. She has also been acting as Enfamil NeuroPro’s Infant Development Expert, sharing advice and insight on how to support baby’s early growth and help promote cognitive development. Dr. Amin is a trusted parenting expert with a dedicated following — her mission is to share balanced, well-researched parenting advice to lessen those big worries and help moms find more joy in motherhood!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I grew up in Southern California to immigrant parents. My parents moved to California in 1979 and still live there to this day. I was raised with a work ethic backed by the pursuit of the American dream. My parents moved here with very little and hustled hard to create a life for me and my older sister. Work ethic was extremely important to them as well as a formal education. College was always a requirement and they raised us prioritizing education as our biggest resource.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
When I was a child, I had a family medicine doctor who was absolutely amazing. He was a D.O. (Osteopathic Medical Doctor) and he was straightforward, engaging, and motivating. The way he spoke with me about my concerns about my health and motivated me to become a doctor inspired me to pursue pediatrics and become an Osteopathic Physician
I knew medicine was always in my cards because I had a mother in healthcare who always had a secure job. She never lost her job in recessions and was always guaranteed a position. I knew medicine to be stable and sustainable so decided to pursue medicine.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most interesting things has been learning about how much of the world views doctors, especially on social media. You see a group of people who trust doctors and appreciates their training and education and then you have a group who never went to medical school and downplays our education and passion. It’s interesting to see this dichotomy.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Ability to ask for help: I always know my boundaries and when to say no. I always ask for help when I need it and know when things are getting to be too much. Sometimes, this means having to hustle until I can create resources to hire help, but I always keep my goals in focus. Help and a team means I can do more and more with my own time
- Ability to prioritize responsibilities: Prioritizing is so key and how I get all the things I do accomplished. I have an Instagram account, podcast, YouTube channel, and virtual e-course and to accomplish this requires prioritizing responsibilities. Sometimes it means taking a step back as I manage my personal life or needs of my family. Every week, I set a weekly to-do-list prioritizing my obligations and every day I check-in with my schedule to see what I need to remove or modify.
- Ability to stay humble: Humility is a huge asset that I think many business owners and people don’t have. To know I am amazing at many things, but that I also have a lot to learn. I use this humility to guide my help. If I need help with certain tasks, I hire people who may excel at my weakness to balance me out. I know I can’t be amazing at everything, and that humility helps me succeed.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?
Women are still taught to be polite, quiet, and not speak up when they’re unhappy. A strong woman is viewed as bossy while a strong man is viewed as authoritative. These are gender norms that are still engrained in us. Even parents of young boys and girls feed into these gender stereotypes.
We feel uncomfortable because a strong woman doesn’t fit into the gender norm society has created for us. Being strong and having a voice is important and women need to do this more.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
I had an incident with a colleague where I was holding my ground in an email to something he was saying. He responded by saying he doesn’t have time for my passive aggressive attitude. I was being assertive and not-passive aggressive. Passive aggressive is when I would say things are fine, when they actually weren’t. Men commonly state we are passive aggressive when we are actually being assertive. I responded with: “A woman holding her stance is not passive-aggressive. If you did the same, you would be in the right because you are a male? You would be “assertive” whereas I am passive aggressive? I am stating how I feel and using terms like “passive-aggressive” is demeaning to me as an educated woman holding her ground.
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
I think it’s important to stay true to who you are and your values. Your goal should not be to people-please but to understand to stay true to your values and that not everyone will love you. And that’s okay if you are living a life of purpose and kindness.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
We need to change the narrative about gender stereotypes. Girls don’t have to wear dresses. Boys can cry.
I think we also need to remember that as women you can be powerful and also be kind. There is a misconception that powerful people have to push people down to succeed. We can be powerful and empower others and be kind to others. Both can co-exist.
In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
- Childcare struggles — women still tend to take the brunt of childcare issues. This can be because of a job that is not deemed as important as their male partner. Perhaps they don’t make as much money, so their job is the one that suffers when the child needs a parent
- Making sure they have a seat at the table. Men still dominate executive boards, especially White men. We need to have more women in CEO and management positions to change the tide
- Sexual harassment-Women still do experience sexual harassment from male colleagues or peers at higher rates than men do.
- A perception that women can’t do as much if they have children. They can accomplish anything a man can as it’s their dream and as long as they have support.
Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?
Absolutely. Interestingly, I chose general Pediatrics because I wanted a flexible outpatient lifestyle with weekends and holidays off. Of course, as a general pediatrician I do have to work some weekends and holidays, but I largely have these off. This was important to ME for balance of family life. The alternative was doing something inpatient in the ICU or in inpatient medicine, but this usually means longer hours when you are at work. My hope was that I could be home for dinner and bedtime for my kids. It was my personal dream when choosing a specialty. One of the most difficult things is balancing all of the roles I play. I am a part-time practicing Pediatrician, on faculty at a teaching hospital, a mom, a wife, a relative and friend, and a social media educator. The biggest struggle came when I was working full-time in a pandemic, with an infant and home, and trying to grow my social media presence. I struggled greatly to find this balance and knew something had to change.
Facing my own challenges, I knew that moms like me were out there trying to juggle it all and do a million things at once: work, enjoy time with friends, achieve new ambitions — all while trying to ensure they’re doing the best for their child’s development. Because of this, I teamed up with Enfamil NeuroPro to be their Enfamil Infant Development Expert, sharing my advice and insight on how to help support baby’s growth to lessen those big concerns and help moms find more joy in motherhood.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?
The tipping point was I slipped into depression. 9 months postpartum, I felt like I was on top of the world yet felt like a failure at the same time. The pandemic was raging, I had an infant who needed more of my attention, I had a husband who was also working long hours in the ER, and I was working on dreams on my social media platform that I only could’ve dreamed of. But all the while, I felt overwhelmed and trapped. I didn’t have enough hours in the day. I was working full time at a job that didn’t bring me joy. I was having panic attacks whenever I was there, and I dreaded going. I slipped into depression where I gelt so helpless. It was those feelings that prompted me to make a change and re-evaluate my goals. What was important to me? My son and my family, my mental health, my growing brand PedsDocTalk, and having clinical experience. The only way I could make all my dreams come to life was to go part-time in my clinical work. I did not have enough hours in the day to accomplish all my goals, so 3 months later I took a leap and went part time.
It was a hard choice because it meant a salary reduction at a time, I didn’t have an alternative income. I was taking a chance on my brand that I could grow it and have it built into something that would bring me income. The chance has paid off as I am now able to build my brand and business, continue to work in clinical medicine which I enjoy part time, teach residents, and have more time with my family.
I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?
I believe that feeling beautiful comes from the inside out and sometimes we do place a value on external appearances more than internal beauty.
That being said. I believe that every woman deserves to feel beautiful and for so many of us — that can mean feeling pampered, having our hair done, or makeup done. I don’t do my hear and makeup on a regular basis, but I love to put on makeup and do my hair for social events or important engagements.
I believe confidence comes from within, but that makeup and appearance can add to that confidence. This addition doesn’t have to be perceived as superficial, but more of a way it makes us feel. If makeup or hair makes a woman feel more powerful and beautiful, I think we should celebrate that. But if a woman feels empty even when she has that makeup on and that hair done, we need to evaluate how we can build this woman’s confidence from the inside out!
How is this similar or different for men?
I believe some men also value their appearance and for them it can be their physical appearance. How do they feel about their body? The same thing goes for men — that they have to be confident from the inside out.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Insight into your strength and weaknesses — self-reflection is vital to be successful. What are you good at? Channel and expand that! What do you need more work on? Outsource that in your business and try to learn the things you don’t know.
- A support squad- Women are successful, but we are unstoppable with a supportive partner, friends, and loved ones
- Ability to prioritize your needs and tasks at hand — You can’t do it all, so it’s important to prioritize what’s important for you in the big picture, for the week, and in every day.
- Learning to say no more to things that don’t serve you. We tend to be people pleasers. We don’t want to disappoint others, so we say yes to everything. Learn to say no more. If you don’t feel like doing something, you don’t have to do it. If you are overcommitted, say no.
- Look at failure and hardship as a learning experience. Life will throw you a lot of curveballs both in your personal life and in business but how I define success is not EVER having these moments. It’s about having these moments and having the optimism and courage to move through it and come out of the other end more powerful than you were before.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to meet Payal Kadakia. She is an Indian-American entrepreneur mom who has started an empire called ClassPass. She inspires me every day both as a mom, Indian American, and entrepreneur. Would love to talk to her 1:1 and hear how she navigates this world.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.