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#Women in the UK #Advertising: Project Findings

I recently completed an analysis of my British Academy funded project on women in advertising. The project was entitled ‘Blokeification as a social issue? The case study of women in the UK’s advertising industry’ and it was funded under the small grants scheme SRG18R1\181033.

In this project, I continued with my research on women in organizations. Previously, I started a research on women in journalism, which has shown there are some debates on whether women who succeed in journalism can only do so if they start communicating and acting like men, and thus become biological female who acts like a man (Acker, 1990) or if they become very blokish (Topić, 2018). I have, therefore run interviews with women in journalism and advertising to try to explore views and the position of women in these two industries to understand whether women need to become blokish to succeed. The advertising industry came as a natural choice for comparison due to academic literature warning about sexism in the industry, as well as public outbursts of sexism and misogyny by some senior men from the advertising industry. For example, in 2016, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi had to resign after causing fury for accusing women to be inert rather than discriminated in the advertising industry (see here ), however, this outburst has clearly signalled that the decisions in the adland are in the hands of old men versed in their ways and views of women.

I, therefore, interviewed a total of 41 women from London, Leeds, Wakefield, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Rickmansworth and Reading from the advertising industry. In addition, one woman from Cardiff, one from Belfast and one from Edinburgh were also interviewed. The work experience of participants ranges from one month to 34 years in the industry, with the majority of interviewed women having between one and five years of experience and 11-20 years of experience. The interviewed women were British, Bulgarian, Cypriot, German, Australian, Ukrainian, Italian, Canadian, French and Dutch, however, British women were predominantly recruited.

The project was divided to three key areas of inquiry, the office culture (exploring issues such as banter, social relationships at work, office conversations, dress code, exclusion from business decisions, office environment and promotions), general views of women and their position in the industry (exploring issues such as equality in promotions, views on their position in the industry, disapproval in the organizational environment, sexism and the position of working mothers), the north-south divide which emerged after 10th interview, and the leadership differences (exploring issues such as leadership styles of male and female managers, role models, own leadership preferences and self-assessment, and early socialisation experiences and its link with leadership).

The results show issues across all explored issues, such as banter and sexism in advertising offices, as well as difficulties in obtaining promotions, which particularly hits mothers but also others. Women of all ages and career stages report a variety of issues they experience in their daily work lives. The difference also appeared in experiences between women from the north and the south, where northern women reported less discrimination and better career opportunities as opposed to women in London who are much less satisfied with their position in the industry, which they often do not see as female-friendly. The full summary of results can be downloaded from this link.

I will also release findings from my journalism project during December 2019.

Thank you for reading.


Acker, J. (1990).Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizatons. Gender & Society 4(2), 139-158.

Topić, M. (2018). Not bloke-ified enough? Women journalists, supermarket industry and the debate on sugar in the British press (2010-2015). The Newspaper Research Journal 39(4), 433–442.


Topic, M (2019) ‘Bloke-ification as a social issue? The case study of women in the UK’s advertising industry’ The Key Findings from the British Academy-funded Project. Project Report. Leeds Business School. Retrieved from

Dr Martina Topić is a Senior Lecturer in Public Relations in Leeds Business School and a founder of the Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities. She is also a project lead for EUPRERA Women in PR project, British Academy project Women in Advertising and Leeds Beckett funded Women in Journalism project. You can find out more about her work at her personal website or at the Leeds Beckett website .

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5th International Conference on Women’s Studies

26th January 2019

Leeds, United Kingdom

Venue: Queens Hotel, City Square, Leeds, LS1 1PJ


Feminists started to advocate equality and fight for women rights decades ago, and so far we have experienced several waves of feminism. While at the beginning of activism, the issue was in women’s equality in general for women were banned from exercising even basic rights such as the right to vote or work, current feminism is standing up against issues such as glass ceiling (where women can only progress in their careers up to a certain point, but fail to obtain managerial positions), wage gap (where women are paid less for same positions as men), as well as traditional battle against patriarchy that is clearly still alive and well. For example, even though it is legally possible for men to take paternal leaves and stay at home to take care of children and household, it is still women who have these requests approved more often than men, which testifies that patriarchal views of expected roles are still present. In addition, in some countries women are still banned from exercising basic rights such as the right to vote, work in all positions and even the right to drive. While there is a number of men that experience family violence, it is still women who mostly suffer from this type of abuse, while those men who do suffer from it fear reporting it due to expectation that the men is the boss in the house. Nevertheless, with the rise of Far Right political candidates and public speakers started to question Feminism and argue that it fulfilled its purpose, while at the same time re-introducing old prejudices and practices against women where an emphasis is based on their appearance, etc.

The questions the conference addressed were how far have we got, and what needs to be done to achieve true equality of both men and women, and a society where there are no expected roles?

A selection of photos is available on our social media profiles.