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#WECAN: Dr Martina Topić

Colleague spotlight | Dr Martina Topić

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Dr Martina Topic outside the Rose Bowl building at Leeds Beckett

Dr Martina Topić is a Senior Lecturer in Public Relations at Leeds Business School. Martina was project lead for the British Academy-funded project on Women in UK’s Advertising Industry and she currently leads the EUPRERA project on women in public relations. She is a research lead for the #WECAN project (Women Empowered through Coaching and Networking), funded by the European Social Fund and Department for Work and Pensions. She is editor-in-chief of Corporate Communication: An International Journal (Emerald) and editor-in-chief of the book series ‘Women, Economics and the Labour Relations’ (Emerald).

Tell us a bit about you and what led to working with Leeds Business School

This is a funny story. When I applied for a job, the advert only said public relations and journalism subject group but not business school. Whilst I knew that PR can be in either business or media schools, I had no idea that journalism could be in a business school and I kept wondering why the interview and first two meetings on my new role were in a business school. After being told I am employed in a business school, I was worried whether the culture would be too corporate and strict, only to find myself in the most supportive and encouraging job I ever had. Every success is celebrated and there is no such thing as a small success. What is more, students are treated as community members and staff go well beyond their profile hours to support them. 

What makes you passionate about your work around PR and why is it important?

I am very passionate about my research and research-informed teaching. My research has so far focused on journalism practice and the position of women in communication industries (journalism, advertising and public relations) and I am passionate about writing books and journal papers in these fields and disseminating them to practitioners, to make a positive impact on women’s lives and enact organisational change. My research has featured in the national and regional press, and I have recently been invited to speak in several practitioner events to disseminate my research and create meaningful conversations about changing things. 

My new research agenda is centred on social class as I realised that class origin conditions opportunities in life and I am passionate about making a difference in this field. I am a working-class person who managed to climb the ladder and I am passionate about helping others do the same. Therefore, I live my research and try to actively support colleagues and students to meet their full potential, and I genuinely believe that equal societies are better for everyone, but we will not achieve one unless we empower working-class people. 

How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?

My most meaningful collaborations are two research projects, the EUPRERA project on Women in Public Relations, which I authored and lead, and the #WECAN project, of which I am research lead for Leeds Beckett University. In the EUPRERA project, I worked with women from more than 10 countries including Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, Canada, Greece, Czech Republic, etc. In the #WECAN project, I work with colleagues from my school, some of whom are junior researchers, and my role is to lead on research and help them create research profiles. These are the two most exciting projects as I have the power to design and lead research, and I excel in organising things and driving publications, and I also get to live my research by supporting colleagues in their endeavours to develop research profiles, thus making a small step towards increasing inclusion of women in senior positions. What is more, #WECAN is an enterprise project conducted in collaboration with the Leadership Centre and we are making an active impact on opportunities for women by giving them access to free training and networking. 

What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in Leeds Business School?

Research-wise, I am most proud of the British Academy project on Women in Advertising because this was the first big project I won by creating everything from scratch. The project findings and publications made regional and national news, and resulted in an engagement with practitioners and meaningful conversations on how to change the position of women within an organisational world.

Teaching-wise, I am very proud that many students come to me for support and references, which shows they trust me. The highlight of my teaching career was when I asked one male student how come I am often the point of contact for male students who confidentially know when there is a health problem. The student replied, “because you are a feminist and we know you would not think less of us for struggling”. This shows that feminism is indeed for everyone if only everyone would truly engage with it and understand that inequality adversely affects everyone!

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