Project code



School of Strategy, Marketing, and Innovation

Start dates

October, February and April

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Subject group


Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the Marketing subject group and will be supervised by Dr Judith Fletcher-Brown, Dr Karen Middleton and Professor Karen Johnston.

Emerging research highlights how collective desire for change by groups of actors can lead to societal and market disruption (Fletcher-Brown et al., 2021). Could this be a pathway to improve women’s safety at night-time through the collective action of stakeholders?

The work on this project may include: 

  •  A systematic literature review to identify the role of key stakeholder groups in the night-time economy and related key factors that negatively impact the safety of women and girls. 
  • A mixed-method approach – composed of qualitative and quantitative methods - to understand the role of stakeholders including brands and organisations in the institutionalised problem of VAWG, and how such groups of actors may work towards improving the safety of women and girls at night.
  • The identification of recommendations for practical approaches that can assist night-time economy stakeholders, for example those in the retail and hospitality sectors, to better understand their power in shaping institutional norms that will lead ultimately to a reduction of incidents of VAWG at night.

Women and girls around the world are facing a parallel pandemic of violence committed against them - mostly by men or because of patriarchal structures. They are disproportionately affected by certain crime types. According to the 2019/20 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), 2.9% of women aged 16 to 74 were victims of sexual assault in the last year (Stripe, 2020). Such statistics highlight the concerns about women and girls’ safety in public places and reflect the significance of this night-time safety project. Women’s safety remains an ongoing societal problem that requires purposeful and forensic examination (Stöckl & Quigg, 2021). The fear of being unsafe at night and the threat of violence experienced by many, places women and girls in an inequitable position in society.
The recent murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa in public spaces at night have elevated the prevalence of VAWG within government and societal discourse. Simultaneously, there is pressure on brands and corporations (Hult, 2011) to strategically align their own market goals with the interests of multiple stakeholders and greater societal good. As brands and organizations are required to take responsibility for the problems in society, more consideration is needed of how this may be achieved.

While there is understanding that through institutional work, individual and collective actors are able to create, maintain, or disrupt established practices in the marketplace (Baker, et al., 2019; Zietsma & Lawrence, 2010), there is scant academic research concerned with the power and impact of the meso level environment in such processes. This belies the potential of meso level groups and organisations to contribute solutions to institutionalised or ‘wicked’ problems in society (Fletcher-Brown, et al., 2021; Middleton & Turnbull, 2021). 

Further, there is growing recognition of underlying harms to individuals and society that may originate within institutionalised marketplace norms, for example gender stereotyping and the objectification of women in advertising (ASA, 2019). Thus, a transformational marketplace approach is required in order to lead to greater alignment of organisational corporate social responsibility objectives with marketplace practices. This project will explore the drivers and challenges to positive, lasting change to such institutionalised marketplace practices and examine the potential for untapped meso level resources to be directed towards improving VAWG in public spaces at night.


Baker, J. J., K. Storbacka, & R. J., Brodie. "Markets changing, changing markets: Institutional work as market shaping." Marketing Theory 19.3 (2019): 301-328.

Fletcher-Brown, J., Turnbull, S., Viglia, G., Chen, T., & Pereira, V. (2021). Vulnerable consumer engagement: How corporate social media can facilitate the replenishment of depleted resources. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 38(2), 518-529.

Hult, G.T.M. (2011). Market-focused sustainability: market orientation plus! Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39, 1-6. 

Gurrieri, L., Previte, J., & Brace-Govan, J. (2013). Women’s bodies as sites of control: Inadvertent stigma and exclusion in social marketing. Journal of Macromarketing, 33(2), 128-143.

McVey, L., Gurrieri, L., & Tyler, M. (2021). The structural oppression of women by markets: thecontinuum of sexual violence and the online pornography market. Journal of Marketing Management, 37(1-2), 40-67.

Middleton, K., & Turnbull, S. (2021). How advertising got ‘woke’: The institutional role of advertising in the emergence of gender progressive market logics and practices. Marketing Theory, 21(4),561-578.

Stripe, N. (2020). Crime in England and Wales: year ending December 2019. Office for NationalStatistics.

Stöckl, H., & Quigg, Z. (2021). Violence against women and girls. British Medical Journal.

Zietsma, C. and Lawrence, T.B. (2010) ‘Institutional Work in The Transformation of An Organizational Field: The Interplay of Boundary Work and Practice Work’, Administrative Science Quarterly 55(2): 189–221.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only – eligibility criteria apply).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry Requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in Marketing, Public Health, Psychology or other related humanities area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

We would encourage applications from those individuals who have an interest in societal issues, health and wellbeing and vulnerable consumer populations. In so doing, this PhD project will challenge your personal assumptions about the troublesome position of vulnerable women. 

What is essential is your drive to learn new knowledge about social marketing’s ability to influence behaviour change in a contemporary societal context. In particular, you may have experience in researching other societal challenges such as sustainability or ethical consumption of goods and services, but wish to broaden your research capabilities to focus on global problem of violence against women and girls. You should possess a sound grounding in quantitative and qualitative research methods but have ambition to extend your skills into other research design methods that incorporate interdisciplinary theoretical applications to unravel complex societal challenges. 

If you believe you have the resilience and curiosity to embark on this research journey then please apply below.

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Judith Fletcher-Brown ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Marketing PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field. 

When applying please quote project code: SM&I4901023