Breaking Down Barriers — Women in the Workforce — Anouk Pappers

Inspiration And Insights
3 min readMar 20, 2024


Anouk Pappers — Brand Anthropologist

As organizations work through complex challenges and seek innovative solutions, the value of women emerges as a strategic necessity. According to the 2023 McKinsey & Company Women in the Workplace report, women remain underrepresented in leadership positions, even though the women’s labor force participation rate stands at 57.5%. While there have been efforts towards increasing diversity at the executive level, the journey towards equity remains ongoing.

McKinsey & Company’s research consistently demonstrates that gender-diverse leadership teams outperform homogeneous ones, delivering superior financial returns and driving innovation. “Top-quartile companies on executive-level gender diversity worldwide had a 21% likelihood of outperforming their fourth-quartile industry peers on EBIT margin, and a 27% likelihood of outperforming fourth-quartile peers on longer-term value creation.” Nevertheless, systemic barriers persist for women, hindering career advancement and perpetuating inequality in wages and leadership representation. Addressing these challenges presents opportunities for organizations to enact change.

My perspective on the importance of women in leadership positions was shaped by my own professional journey. A few years after we embarked on the mission of telling stories for brands worldwide I noticed a stark gender disparity in leadership roles. Nearly 90% of the leaders were men. This sparked an investigation into the roots of the imbalance. Identifying the causes led to our company’s commitment to support women in overcoming the challenges that continue to hinder their advancement.

The influence of women extends to shaping perceptions, challenging norms, and cultivating a legacy of empowerment through their personal brand reputation. By sharing our stories and inspiring others, we serve as role models, mentors, and advocates for inclusion and advancement. Leveraging our personal brands allows us to champion causes we believe in, amplify marginalized voices, and drive change. Strengthening our online presences showcases our expertise and experiences. It allows us to reach our target audiences and provide the proof points of our thought leadership. It also paves the way for greater representation and recognition in our industries.

Building a culture of inclusivity begins with visionary leadership, fostering safe spaces for dialogue and actively seeking out different perspectives. Companies that prioritize inclusion seize emerging opportunities while also outperforming peers in business outcomes, performance, and employee satisfaction. Embracing gender diversity is a strategic advantage as it enables organizations to attract and retain top talent, enhance brand reputation, and build trust with stakeholders.

The importance of women in the workplace will only continue to grow. By fostering inclusive cultures organizations unlock new opportunities for innovation, drive sustainable growth, and create a more equitable future. Let us collectively commit to building workplaces where women are valued, respected, and empowered — and in doing so, propel our organizations and society forward.

To read more about women in the workforce click here

A brand anthropologist who has been storytelling for brands since 2002, Anouk Pappers has interviewed over 1,000 CEOs, CMOs and business owners and published 15 books. Anouk’s primary focus is on working with women and diverse leaders to define their personal brands and pinpoint their narrative. Her company, Signitt, enables people to align their online presence with their personal brand, as well as with their organization’s values and mission. This positions them to achieve their next professional goal while at the same time enhancing their company’s image.

Connect with Anouk on LinkedIn.