Promoting Diversity in Leadership Through Storytelling - Maarten Schafer

Maarten Schafer
4 min readNov 29, 2023

In my years of globe-trotting for the ‘Around the World in 80 Brands’ project, I’ve encountered a striking imbalance in the business world: a significant underrepresentation of women and diverse leaders. This realization didn’t just strike me as a statistical anomaly; it became a catalyst for a profound shift in my storytelling mission.

My journey began with a focus on brands and companies, interviewing over 900 CEOs, CMOs, and business owners globally. This work culminated in the publication of 15 books, each a collection of fascinating leadership stories. However, as I delved deeper, I noticed a glaring gap in the diversity of voices in these narratives.

Since 2002, my focus has been centered around storytelling for brands. But in 2014, there was a significant pivot: the focus shifted to storytelling for leaders and executives. It all started with a planned interview with a CEO in New York. The CEO didn’t want to talk about his company but sought to improve his online presence. He said, “My investors google me, my shareholders google me, and even my employees google me… and I don’t like what they see.”

This was a turning point for our business, with 85% of our work now dedicated to helping leaders, particularly women and diverse individuals, enhance their profiles.

Our approach focuses not just on the role and job title but on the personal brand. What do you stand for, and what do you bring to the table? Leadership is not about job titles but more about individual stories and unique contributions.

This all resonates with my personal mission. It highlights the need to tell stories that aren’t just about business successes but about leaders' diverse and multifaceted experiences. It’s a narrative that encompasses challenges, cultural nuances, and the resilience required to break stereotypes and overcome biases.

My goal has always been to enrich my understanding through learning and experiences. This project, in particular, has brought me a profound cultural understanding and an awareness of the importance of empathy and recognizing unconscious bias. Working with diverse leaders has added a deeper purpose to my professional life, fueling my commitment to promoting diversity in leadership through storytelling.

Now, my work is about more than just enhancing online profiles. It’s about supporting the representation of diverse voices in the corporate sector, ensuring that when we talk about leaders, we’re not just referring to a homogenous group. We’re talking about a mixture of experiences and backgrounds contributing to leadership roles.

My storytelling journey has evolved into a mission: to amplify the voices, highlight the unique contributions of women and diverse leaders, and reshape the leadership narrative to be more inclusive and representative of the world we live in.

Maarten Schafer
Chief Storyteller - SIGNITT

https://video.wixstatic.com/video/d097db_eb4ffb89f86f4fce87ac540cb4fb3579/1080p/mp4/file.mp4

https://video.wixstatic.com/video/d097db_e0e9f79c458c40a8b2b5f719f823477b/720p/mp4/file.mp4

https://video.wixstatic.com/video/d097db_875eddc3300e457484535d098db2abed/720p/mp4/file.mp4

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Maarten Schafer

“I travel the world. I Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time and leave nothing but footprints.”