#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 http://eprints.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/6330/1/BA%20project%20summary_final%20document.pdf

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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