Power Women: Davida Ginter of Enkindle Global On How To Successfully Navigate Work, Love and Life As A Powerful Woman
An Interview With Ming Zhao
Have positive and sustainable self-worth. When interviewing leaders about struggles and setbacks, I’ve noticed that many of the women interviewees mentioned their reduced self-worth when approaching burnout. It made me understand how extremely important is our sense of self-worth to thrive and face hardships and adversity. Our sense of worth should not be subjected to external approval — and it’s up to us to find the keys to maintain it on a regular basis.
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 Davida Ginter.
Davida Ginter is a burnout prevention expert, Founder & CEO of Enkindle Global, and author of the book “Burning Out Won’t Get You There”. She specializes in participatory processes and operates globally to eliminate burnout, cultivate wellbeing and build emotional resilience. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Norwegian and Israeli media outlets, and numerous business podcasts. She resides in Israel with her spouse and three children.
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 was born and raised in Israel to a family that pushed me to excel and challenge mediocrity. I’ve seen my parents and grandmother working hard and building themselves from the ground. I loved reading books and to come up with adventures of my own: going camping, pretending we are survivors in the wild, writing my own stories… At the same time, I was constantly being conveyed the message that I should never compromise on what I choose to do. It led me to pursue leadership roles. From a role in the student’s council to being the head leader in the local scouts’ branch before I turned 18, to serving as a commanding officer during my military service — I spent a solid amount of time discussing values, refining my own definition of leadership, and learning how to navigate team conflicts — sometimes the hard way while making a lot of mistakes.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
During the first years after my release from military service, I worked as a journalist in one of the daily Israeli newspapers. My path as a writer and an editor was satisfying but I always felt that there’s something missing until I realized I don’t want to just write about social change; I want to lead social change. I quit my job, enrolled in an international Masters’ program in Sweden called “Sustainable Leadership towards Sustainability” and came back to Israel to found “Be the Change” sustainability center.
One day, during a phone call with a colleague of mine, I had an “AHA moment”. We were discussing how many entrepreneurs and social leaders we know are suffering from stress and burnout. I found it ironic that those who care so much about sustainability, forget to sustain themselves in the process. “We don’t have to suffer in order to reduce world suffering”, we concluded the call and I thought “hey, that’s a great title for an article!” I started interviewing changemakers and leaders about their experience with burnout and the more I dug in, the more I realized that changemakers’ burnout is a wide, global, cross-sectoral phenomenon.
My research led me to publish the book “Burning Out Won’t Get You There”, to found Enkindle Global — an organization dedicated to burnout prevention — and to start working globally on the systemic level of eliminating burnout, focusing on the leadership level.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Shortly after publishing my book about burnout, I received an email from a dear friend who lives in Chicago. “I recommended your book to a colleague of mine who represents people with physical disabilities in the criminal justice system. I’m forwarding you her email after she read it”. When I opened this woman’s letter, it said: “I was literally crying a few pages in, because I was desperate for someone in the field to come alongside and really understand the huge struggles we face as changemakers in the fight for social justice…”. When my husband walked into the room five minutes later, I was tearing myself. “What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly. I told him that I was moved by the review I received, but it was more than that. I always hoped that my first book will sell well (which it didn’t) yet I never expected that the most meaningful impact I could hope for is to touch even one person’s life so profoundly. It became my new measurement of success: instead of counting numbers, I was after the depth of positive influence and profound transformation on individual lives as well as organizations and systems that I engage with.
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?
- Listening without judgment. In situations where I applied judgment, I felt a growing disconnection, both from myself and from people who were involved. Pursuing the practice of pausing judgment and employing genuine listening, allowed me to cultivate meaningful dialogues with people. It was tremendously helpful when interviewing changemakers for my book because they felt they could open up and vulnerably share with me their most personal and painful stories. People who have experienced burnout, suffer sometimes from guilt and shame, and my job is to help them uncover and remove those layers — a mission that can only succeed when the listening is judgment-free.
- Consistency and grit. As an entrepreneur, I had my fair share of failures and setbacks. From lack of funding for my first enterprise “Be the Change” to normalizing open conversations about burnout and convincing organizations that it’s their responsibility to tackle that issue strategically — I have encountered many struggles, which often resulted in closed doors, unpaid months, and team turnover. But I wasn’t planning to give up. I strongly believe that my mission is needed; and so if the door was closed — I used the window instead. I raised the needed capital or pivoted accordingly. I paved new paths and partnered up with committed people who walk this journey with me to this day. I see consistency as an ongoing practice, which is equally important as professional mastery.
- Staying true to my own voice. Every time I was trying to mimic others, I found myself regretting doing that. And every time I insisted on adhering to my values and principles, I felt a little braver. It wasn’t always accepted with warm applause; people weren’t always cheering and understanding. But I had a strong inner knowing that it’s the right thing for me to do. I was told that burnout is too small of a field to practice, but I wanted to focus. I was offered jobs that would ensure me financial stability, but social change drew me and resonated with my core. I received what could be considered hurtful comments on a few articles and posts I’ve published, but I chose not to get hurt. I wanted my truth to speak on my behalf, not popularity, instant hacks, or easy-to-digest messages. “When you try to please everyone, you ended up impacting no one” is a mantra I keep repeating for myself, which is extremely helpful when you found yourself swimming against the current.
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?
This is the message we have absorbed from a young age, whether loudly or subtly. Most of us — both women and men — were educated on the premise of “Feminine as opposed to Masculine”, or what is considered an ideal woman figure (quiet, obedient, and pretty were some of the common traits of this ideal), and that women should be gentle rather than “pushy”. Even with the gradual understanding that women can be just as strong and powerful as men, that success wears many faces, and that there is no ideal shape of a woman because there’s no one size that fits all — we still have a lot of narratives to rewrite and layers of thinking-patterns to peel off. Those deeply ingrained patterns make certain people afraid of embracing change, such as accepting strong women as they are without demanding or expecting them to adjust. And even more so, our systems — institutions, policies, resources allocation — are built to serve masculine power in many cases, more than we are willing to admit.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
I was told several times that I’m “too nice to do business” and that an empathic approach will hinder me from succeeding as a CEO. I received the most unrespectful messages on LinkedIn and it led me to post a video under the title “Don’t hit on us on LinkedIn” — which became viral and exposed how rooted is the phenomenon of not taking women seriously in the business arena and even objectifying them. I cringe when I face the common perception that there’s one way to succeed in business and “that’s the way things are”. Strength has different shapes and forms, and it’s up to us to widen the perspective.
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
There’s always a moment of self-reflection around “what exactly am I doing that makes the other person feel uncomfortable”? Unless we have displayed judgment and alike, I’d always recommend to women to carry on and be themselves, despite the inconvenience — a piece of advice I pursue myself. If people can’t be comfortable with an inner strength that is not meant to minimize anyone but to be authentic, then it’s their responsibility and their role to cope. I’m in for kindness, and against being apologetic about being who we are, as we are — powerful behavior included.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
This is a multi-generational process. We should educate our children about it from a young age, through stories, narratives, role play, games, and media. We should teach gender equality not only through talking about it — but through embodying it as a lifestyle and change of structures. Most importantly, we should speak up when we see something wrong, when we notice even the subtle hint for minimizing women and diminishing their worth. I knew my kids got it when they started pointing out to me wrongdoing, such as discriminating signs, or underestimation of women characters in movies and popular media. As for adults, it should be an endless practice of bringing more strong women’s voices to the table. I once emailed a conference organizer the following words: “great content, terrible balance. Where are all the women speakers?” Needless to say, he became very apologetic and tried to fix it.
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?
I once sat in the daily editorial meeting of the printed newspaper, representing the digital news edition I was working for at that time. Everyone quietly read the shortlist of planned headlines for tomorrow, and once I finished, I raised my eyes and waited patiently for everyone to join the discussion. One of the senior editors, a man who didn’t know me well, turned to me and asked: “Why aren’t you reading? Don’t tell me you’ve finished already”. “But I have”, I told him. The table went even quieter. I was one of two women around a table of men and the only one who got asked that question. “Well, then tell me what story is planned for the middle page”, he tested me. They all looked shocked, but no one dared to say anything. I replied and he gave me a new look, re-estimating me, but my initial burn — that he doesn’t trust a colleague woman and putting me on the spot like that — remained.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women constantly feel that they need to prove themselves way and beyond — walking the extra mile — so that no one will even think of questioning how did they get to where they got. Being a woman leader often means finding a unique voice that balances strength with empathy, vulnerability with setting boundaries, kindness with professionalism. And while those balances are equally important for men to maintain, women leaders will probably be harshly judged if they are “too empathic” or “too kind” and be seen as weak, or “too tough” and even manly when setting their foot on the ground.
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?
Yes and no. It was difficult to balance it all, in the sense that I love giving a hundred percent to each of my endeavors, yet we only have 24 hours a day… When working with my first baby in my arms, I kept feeling I’m disappointing both my baby daughter and my co-workers and clients, even though no one ever complained — it was my head making up stories about guilt. When I have learned to reach out for help and support, it has improved significantly. I understood that it’s not about how much time I spend with my children, it’s the quality of the time that matters. I realized that I’m more complete as a person and as a parent when I’m both — a mother and a professional who pursue a fulfilling mission. It also helped that my spouse has always taken full responsibility and an equal part in raising our children, including homeschooling them when I did my master’s degree in a foreign country.
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?
What I have found extremely helpful — and strongly aligned with my values — is to involve my children in what I do ever since they were fairly young. I came to their kindergarten and schools to talk about sustainability and social change; I have shared with them my book writing process; I took them to meet colleagues from abroad and we held interesting discussions around the dinner table. It changed everything because it was no longer about finding a work-life balance, it’s about creating a work-life synergy and harmony. (And yes, I told my 12-year daughter about the topic of this article and asked for her input about “what does a strong woman mean to you”…)
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 place some importance on my appearance yet not for the sake of being seen by others as for feeling powerful in my own eyes. Similar to what I’ve said earlier about our unique voice and originality, I have found that the more I am aligned with my personal preference of aesthetics, clothing, makeup, hairstyle, and other ingredients that comprise our appearance — the more beautiful I feel, and I can imagine it projects towards the outside. As for beauty, I believe it’s in the eyes of the beholder, and one’s criteria are different than those of another. It, therefore, begs the question: are we beautifying ourselves as we truly love and want to be, or are we chasing someone else’s measurements of beauty?…
How is this similar or different for men?
I can imagine that it’s similar to men in the sense that it’s easy to fall into social patterns and be consistent with the collective ideal of beauty or “correct” appearance. At the same time, it’s different because many men who don’t put a lot of effort into their appearance will be considered strong leaders just as well, while for women the standard is stricter and not compromising. It is completely irrational, but the narrative keeps telling us that a woman who doesn’t invest in her appearance probably doesn’t care enough and therefore is not qualified to climb the popular ladder of success. Once again, we should ask: who are we to judge anyone — men, women, non-binaries — for their appearance and based on that make assumptions about their capabilities? Moreover, who set this ladder of success to begin with, and what was the interest behind it? I have nothing against putting time and effort into our external appearance — as long as it corresponds with our personality, our preference, our values, our own voice.
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.)
1. Have positive and sustainable self-worth. When interviewing leaders about struggles and setbacks, I’ve noticed that many of the women interviewees mentioned their reduced self-worth when approaching burnout. It made me understand how extremely important is our sense of self-worth to thrive and face hardships and adversity. Our sense of worth should not be subjected to external approval — and it’s up to us to find the keys to maintain it on a regular basis.
2. Be who you are — no compromises or apologies. Being a powerful woman means first to be a powerful you. In my early years, I had a tendency to please people and blend in, until at the age of 17 I experienced what it’s like to be yourself when I stood on a stage in a young leaders’ conference and said out loud that the presented program has a few inherent problems in it. My heart was pounding hard and I thought that they are going to kick me out of the program. Surprisingly, I received a standing ovation. During my adult years, every time I dared to stand up for something I believed in even when it wasn’t popular — I never regretted doing so. Blending in might feel comfortable, warm, and fuzzy at the beginning, but it is has a cost in the long run; you lose yourself. Your authentic leadership will only prosper when you are who you want to be without being apologetic about it.
3. Have a bold vision. Oftentimes, we are solution-oriented without spending time first on crafting and articulating a vision. I strongly believe that one of the most important leadership traits is to envision boldly and rethink what was considered so far a taboo, undoable, unchangeable. As women leaders, a powerful way to succeed and serve is to be bold, innovative, and novel about creating a better world. Some questions I like to ask myself are: “Who said so? Who decided it should be that way and why? How will the world and my surroundings benefit if we change it?”
4. Cultivate support systems. Considering all the above, being a woman leader is not an easy task. Empowering, exciting, but quite challenging. The good news is that we don’t have to do it alone. We can and need to proactively surround ourselves with solid support systems — groups of shared interest, mentors, family, friends. It doesn’t have to be many people, even one could do — as long as it’s someone who won’t judge us and will hold the space for us to thrive. A few months ago, we organized a women leaders event under the title “Feminineship: Women Impacting Women Impacting the World”. One of the best feedback comments we have received was that those women mainly needed to connect. They didn’t necessarily ask for advice or help, although that’s legitimate, they were after a supportive space to grow individually-together.
5. Embrace courage and take risks. We can’t move forward without taking risks and knowing that while leveraging change, we might lose something. Our comfort place; A person who resists our efforts and the new norm; Perhaps money, or time, or opportunities. But we also gain the internal knowing that we have tried, and maybe succeeded in planting the seeds for change. As women leaders we need a dose of courage on a daily basis… to stay consistent and keep believing that our vision, our actions, our attempts will be fruitful — without losing ourselves in the process.
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’d love to meet Arianna Huffington. Since we share a similar endeavor of eliminating burnout and cultivating wellbeing on a wide, systemic scale — I can imagine that we will have a meaningful conversation!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.