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Two Englands? Blokishness, masculine habitus and the North-South divide in the advertising industry

Martina Topić (Leeds Business School, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 4 September 2020

Issue publication date: 22 March 2021




The purpose of this paper is to analyse the position of women in the advertising industry with the lens of organisational theory and Bourdieuian concept of habitus, to explore whether women are expected to embrace masculine characteristics to succeed and whether advertising industry can be seen as a masculine habitus.


Qualitative interviews were conducted with 37 women working in the advertising industry in England. The data was analysed using thematic analysis.


Women report masculine expectations as a condition to succeed in their careers and show large internalisation of masculine habitus. While women recognise that the position of men is better, they do not report challenging organisational structures that enforce masculine expectations of them, and they generally report having to communicate and behave like men to succeed. Women in the north show more work satisfaction and report less sexism and career barriers.

Practical implications

Employers wishing to present their brand as inclusive should consider the impact of organisational structure and design internal policies that promote inclusivity.

Social implications

Advertising industry has a mass reach, similar to one of the media, and reshaping organisational structure to foster inclusivity would enable more supportive and less stereotypical campaigns. Class origin and early socialisation influence communication and behaviour in adulthood, which influences career opportunities.


To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is the first study addressing blokishness and masculine habitus in the context of the advertising industry in England. Besides, the study identified a regional divide in work experiences, which are linked to early socialisation.



This work was supported by the British Academy research grant under SRG18R1\181033.


Topić, M. (2021), "Two Englands? Blokishness, masculine habitus and the North-South divide in the advertising industry", Gender in Management, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 205-220.



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