To read this content please select one of the options below:

“I am not a typical woman. I don’t think I am a role model” – Blokishness, behavioural and leadership styles and role models

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

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 31 January 2023

Issue publication date: 16 March 2023




This paper presents a sociological analysis of the advertising industry's leadership styles and role models in England using masculinities in behaviour (“blokishness”) as a concept. The paper particularly focusses on the experiences of the so-called tomboy women who were socialised with boys and embraced masculine behavioural styles and compares their views and styles with women who experienced a more common, feminine socialisation and spent time in girls' peer groups during early socialisation. The paper explores why some women are seen as role models and others are not.


Qualitative interviews were conducted with 37 women working in a variety of roles within the advertising industry in England, and from a variety of backgrounds, and views on leadership and role models were analysed with a particular focus on “tomboy” women and their behavioural and leadership styles, which is linked with role models and compared against views of the so-called feminine women. Triple coding and a thematic analysis were used to analyse data and make sense of concepts derived from participants' answers.


The findings suggest that tomboy women demonstrate masculine leadership and behavioural styles and are less likely to see themselves as role models along with facing disapproval from female employees they manage. On the other hand, feminine women demonstrate feminine leadership styles and are more likely to see themselves and become accepted as role models. Thus, the paper suggests that the perception and experience of role models depend on behavioural and leadership styles, which is different for the so-called tomboy and feminine women. Data suggest this is due to participation in early peer groups during childhood. The paper offers conceptualisation figures to inform future research.

Practical implications

The findings suggest it is not always formal structure that impedes the progress of women, but often informal ones linked to behavioural styles. Therefore, whilst many positive policies have been introduced to improve equality in organisations and society in general, this paper sheds light on how these policies could get undermined by informal issues such as behavioural and leadership styles. Human resource (HR) professionals should further internal policies to prevent situations in which only those “who are like us” can go ahead in their careers by diversifying the workforce and employment and promotions panels.


To the best of the author's knowledge, this is the first paper analysing role models, and leadership styles linked to the position of women in the advertising industry, focussing on blokishness in behaviour and comparing styles of the so-called tomboy and feminine women.



Topić, M. (2023), "“I am not a typical woman. I don’t think I am a role model” – Blokishness, behavioural and leadership styles and role models", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 84-102.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles