What the Disney/Fox deal aims to achieve

From a single newspaper in Adelaide, Mr Murdoch has spent the last 65 years assembling a global media empire, acquiring assets and boldly investing in start-ups such as Sky – the owner of Sky News.

The media industry has been stunned at his preparedness to unwind the work of a lifetime and to sell assets to which, in many cases, he is seen as being emotionally attached.

Yet this is a clear-sighted decision by the 86-year old billionaire. Mr Murdoch knows the biggest threat to media businesses like 21st Century Fox are not their traditional competitors from within the industry, such as Disney or Time Warner, but tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and Netflix.

In selling to Disney, a company three times the size of 21st Century Fox and in which he and his family will maintain a stake, Mr Murdoch is calculating that the tables can be turned.

Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall wedding
Image:Rupert Murdoch is married to Jerry Hall

That is because the Magic Kingdom, bulked up with Fox’s film and television assets, will be in a much stronger position in which to compete with so-called “over-the-top” streaming platforms, such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, which supply content direct to consumers instead of via traditional broadcasting networks.

Both Disney and Fox have already been gradually removing their film and television content from Netflix in particular.

The sharp drop in shares of Netflix since news leaked out that Disney and Fox were in negotiations shows who Wall Street thinks will be the big loser from this deal.

This will be crucial for Disney. The company, which owns the US broadcaster ABC, used to make around two-thirds of its revenues from television but “cord-cutting” – customers abandoning pay-television operators in favour of alternative internet services – has led to this falling to just under half of all sales.

In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is reflected in the eye of a woman on September 19, 2014 in Paris, France
Image:Netflix and Amazon’s Prime service are among the top challengers in the provision of entertainment

Disney is responding by launching its own streaming services and, with Fox’s television and filmed assets, it will become a powerful player. Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu, in which Disney also owns a 30% stake, will add to that muscle.

The deal will also enable Disney’s filmed entertainment arm to leapfrog Warner Brothers to become Hollywood’s leading player. The combined business will account for around two in every five cinema tickets sold in the US – giving Disney greater leverage over how much it can charge for its movies.

But there is also an important cultural angle to this in that the deal will make Disney’s film and TV offerings more rounded.

Fox’s television studios produce edgier, more adult-oriented shows, such as Family Guy, The Simpsons, Modern Family and This Is Us, than the more traditional family entertainment in which Disney’s TV arm specialises.

Star Wars
Image:The Star Wars franchise is part of Disney

The filmed entertainment arm of Fox, helped by units such as Fox Searchlight, its indie film arm, is widely admired in the industry for its creativity and output. When nominations for Hollywood’s Golden Globes were announced earlier this week, Fox had 27 film nominations, more than twice as many as its nearest competitor, Sony, while Disney had just three.

This deal will also make Disney, which is more focused on the United States, much more of an international media company.

Fox is presently the more geographically diverse of the pair. Disney’s theme park business, which accounts for 20% of its revenues, could also expect a boost from the addition of popular Fox franchises such as the X-Men.

Star TV in India and Sky, with its 22 million household customers in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, are accordingly very important components of this deal for Disney.

Fox has spent the last year trying to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not already own and that takeover process will now continue. The deal is currently being scrutinised by the Competition & Markets Authority.

Sky is the owner of Sky News
Image:Sky plc is the owner of Sky News

This transaction is the biggest roll of the dice yet by Bob Iger, Disney’s highly-respected chief executive, who since taking the job in 2005 has bought a number of businesses, including Pixar for $7.4bn, Marvel for $4.2bn and LucasFilm for $4.1bn. All of those properties were successfully integrated into Disney and Wall Street is betting Mr Iger can pull off the trick again.

The rest of the global media industry’s major players will have to look to their own positions after this deal, which raises the prospect of a handful of giants – Comcast, owner of NBC Universal; the combined Disney and Fox, and AT&T, assuming it is allowed to buy Time Warner – dominating the sector.

This transaction may force the likes of CBS and Sony into doing mergers of their own.

Following the deal, 21st Century Fox’s remaining assets will be in news and sports, including the Fox News and Fox Business News channels as well as Fox Sports 1 and a number of local US TV stations.

Chief executive officer and chairman of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger
Image:Bob Iger plans to stay at Disney’s helm until at least 2021

Mr Murdoch regards news and sport as being less exposed to a downturn in advertising because they tend to be watched by audiences in real time. He has also noted how CBS, the US broadcaster, was rewarded with a higher stock market rating by Wall Street once it was separated from the media conglomerate Viacom to become a more focused business.

The “New Fox” will still be a sizeable business, generating free cash flow of $2bn annually, putting it in a strong position to acquire other assets should Mr Murdoch wish to do so.

There has been speculation that, following a sale to Disney, Mr Murdoch would seek to reunite Fox with News Corporation, the owner of newspaper titles such as the Wall Street Journal, The Sun and The Times, from which it was demerged four years ago.

Mr Murdoch and his family trust are the biggest shareholders in both companies and the main reason why Fox’s proposed £18bn takeover of Sky has taken so long to complete is because the UK government and Ofcom, the UK broadcasting regulator, have questioned whether placing Sky News and News Corp’s British newspaper titles under common ownership would reduce plurality in the UK news industry.

Yet Mr Murdoch has no plans to reunite the two arms of his business empire, reasoning that most outside investors want exposure to either 21st Century Fox or to News Corporation, but not to both.

One big question is what will happen to James Murdoch, Mr Murdoch’s younger son, who is chairman of Sky and chief executive of 21st Century Fox.

There had been speculation that Fox had been pressing for a seat on the Disney board for him, putting him in place to eventually succeed Mr Iger, who was due to retire in July 2019.

But there will be no boardroom representation. Mr Murdoch is, however, expected to play a key role in the integration process – giving him the opportunity to impress at Disney.

As for Mr Murdoch Sr, there has been speculation that he will use this deal as an opportunity to retire, as his friend Frank Lowy, the billionaire founder of the Westfield shopping empire, plans to following the sale of his business this week.

That is not going to happen. Mr Murdoch is excited about prospects for “New Fox” and has even been telling colleagues this is a chance to “start all over again”. Do not be surprised if, for example, he announces plans to take Fox News into new markets.

The pig farmer taking on Tesco
Richard BaughImage copyrightRichard Baugh

Pig farming can be a messy business, but some say supermarkets are playing an even dirtier game.

Richard Baugh’s family have been raising pigs for three generations at Woodside Farm in rural Nottinghamshire.

But Mr Baugh says he’s been forced to change the name of his business after Tesco rebranded its own label pork products as “Woodside Farms”.

He’s now threatening legal action if the supermarket giant doesn’t drop its new branding.

“What bothers me the most is it’s not necessarily British food they’re putting it on,” says Mr Baugh, who’s changed his business name to “Bofs Hogs” to differentiate it from Tesco.

“It’s European pork which sometimes isn’t under our strict regulations.”

A spokesperson for Tesco said the supermarket was not willing to comment, but in the past it has said the brands have been popular with customers.


Mr Baugh has been offered legal support by anti-food waste charity Feedback.

The group has urged Tesco – along with Aldi, Asda and Lidl – to stop using so-called “fake farm” branding, arguing that it misleads shoppers about the origins of produce.

In 2016, the supermarket giant sparked controversy after launching seven new brands all with British-sounding, but fictitious, farm names.

Woodside, Willow and Boswell Farms are used for the chain’s own-brand pork, chicken and beef, while Redmere Farms is used for vegetables.

Rival firm Morrisons also took part in a similar practice, but said it August that it would discontinue its brands.

Image copyrightTesco

Mr Baugh admits Woodside is a common farm name in Britain, but says he’s concerned by Tesco’s attitude towards the farming community.

“They’ve got so much selling power they don’t have to worry about what farmers think,” he says.

“At the end of the day, price of product will always win over welfare.”

The biggest problem is standing together, he adds.

“Farmers are all independent businesses, they don’t all have the financial backing that Tesco has.”

“We don’t stand together very well, that’s why – as a business – farmers are weak.”

Bank sees reduced risk of disorderly Brexit

The verdict of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was announced following its latest meeting to determine interest rates.

There was no policy shift as rates were unanimously kept at 0.5%, as economists had widely predicted, following the first increase in Bank rate for over a decade last month – aimed at combating rising inflation.

In its assessment of the UK economy, the MPC said the rate of inflation – confirmed at 3.1% on Wednesday – was “close to its peak” as it had previously forecast.

It has been driven up this year because the fall in the pound since the Brexit vote has driven up the cost of imported goods.

Mark Carney is the governor of the Bank of England

Video:Carney sees little rate rise strain

Those extra costs have, in turn, been passed on to businesses and consumers alike leaving households feeling the pinch particularly because wage growth has lagged behind inflation since last spring.

The MPC pointed to the likelihood of a hit to the economy because of the price pressure, saying it expected fourth quarter growth would be “somewhat below” the 0.4% achieved in the previous three months.

But it said confidence would be expected to rise – given progress in the Brexit process last week – that allowed talks to shift towards future trade arrangements.

The Bank said: “The Committee remains of the view that, were the economy to follow the path expected in the November Inflation Report, further modest increases in Bank rate would be warranted over the next few years, in order to return inflation sustainably to the target.

“Any future increases in Bank rate are expected to be at a gradual pace and to a limited extent.

“The Committee will monitor closely the incoming evidence on the evolving economic outlook, including the impact of last month’s increase in Bank rate, and stands ready to respond to developments as they unfold to ensure a sustainable return of inflation to the 2% target.”

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said it was a “fairly dull” update from the MPC.

He added: “As this Brexit-related uncertainty is almost certainly here to stay, I expect the Bank to proceed cautiously from here.

“Policymakers will naturally be keen to raise rates as fast as the economy allows, if only to provide some firepower when the next economic downturn arrives.

“But with domestic inflationary pressures thin on the ground and Brexit casting its customary shadow, there’s no real imperative to move for some time.

“Markets are tentatively pricing in a further rise towards the second half of next year.”

Black Friday lifts UK retail sales in November
Black Friday salesImage copyrightGetty Images

Black Friday helped to propel retail sales 1.6% higher in November from a year earlier, official figures suggest.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that retailers had reported a particular uplift in sales of electrical household appliances.

ONS statistician Rhian Murphy said underlying growth remained “reasonably strong”.

However, analysts said that Black Friday had distorted sales and retailers faced challenging conditions.

The ONS said that the quantity of food bought in November fell by 0.1% compared to the same month last year.

However, the amount of money spent jumped by 3.5%, reflecting a rise in food prices that has contributed to the increase in inflation, which is now at a near six-year high of 3.1%.

In non-food sales, clothing and footwear rebounded from a slump in October to rise 2.3% in November from a year earlier. Department stores, however, saw their sales fall by 0.9% which the ONS said “continues a recent pattern of slowdown in this sector”.

Alex Marsh, managing director of Close Brothers Retail Finance, said: “The final run up to Christmas may prove more difficult than usual for retailers as they battle low consumer confidence amid increasing inflation and a squeeze on wages.”

Black Friday is an import from the US, where it takes place on the day after Thanksgiving and is regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping period.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “The surge in retail sales in November does not signal broader consumer strength.”

Mr Tombs said Black Friday meant the strength in November retail sales “merely reflected people bringing forward purchases that they otherwise would have made in December or January to November, due to the discounts available”.

Month-on-month, sales rose by 1.1% in November from October, which was ahead of analysts’ forecasts for 0.4% growth.

Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, said that “on the surface” the data was “promising”.

But he said: “The next 10 days of pre-Christmas sales will be crucial for retailers. Trading is likely to peak on Friday 22 December, particularly for purchases of food and drink as consumers prepare for festive hosting.

“However, profitability is another matter and margins are under intense pressure.”

Stamp duty tax debate ‘welcome’
Estate agent windowImage copyrightPA

The abolition of stamp duty for many first-time buyers should spark a wider debate over the taxation of property, surveyors say.

New buyers purchasing a home of up to £300,000 no longer have to pay stamp duty owing to changes made in last month’s Budget.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said that the move was unlikely to affect the market.

Prices and activity were relatively stagnant immediately after the change.

“However, if the move does trigger a wider debate about how best to tax property, it will serve a useful role,” said Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS.

Alongside the abolition of stamp duty for sub-£300,000 homes bought by first-time buyers, properties costing up to £500,000 now have no stamp duty paid on the first £300,000 by new buyers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said this meant 95% of first-time buyers would see stamp duty cut, while 80% would pay none at all.

The change has taken effect in England and Northern Ireland. It is in place in Wales up until the end of March at least, but not in Scotland.

Surveyors said that in November, when the announcement was made, there was a slowdown in the decline of inquiries from new buyers. Prices were flat, on average, across the UK.

RICS members expected a drop in prices over the next three months in London, the South East of England and East Anglia, but a rise in the North West of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Prediction for 2018

Separately, the trade body for mortgage lenders has predicted no return of the scramble for properties seen before the financial crisis, for at least the next two years.

The number of property transactions is expected to remain at about 1.2 million for each of the next two years, according to UK Finance.

It expects a slight rise in lending next year compared with its previous forecast.

First-time buyer activity was more buoyant than it had expected this year, owing mainly to government schemes aimed at helping people buy their first home.

Black Friday delivers retail sales boost

Electrical household appliances were a key factor in boosting sales.

The figures appeared to allay some of the gloom surrounding the high street as rising inflation eats into household income, shaking consumer confidence.

The growth reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) beat the average expectation of economists that sales volumes compared with the previous month would increase by just 0.4%.

ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy said: “Household goods stores had a good November, with a number of businesses saying that Black Friday promotions boosted sales.”

The 1.1% growth in November was the strongest monthly figure since April. The ONS also revised up October’s reading from 0.3% to 0.5%.

But the picture was less rosy when comparing the past three months with the same period a year earlier – smoothing out monthly volatility.

By this measure, sales grew by 1%, the weakest pace since May 2013.

The period covered by the ONS data included Black Friday on 24 November but did not extend to Cyber Monday on 27 November.

James Smith, economist at ING Bank, said the better-than -expected monthly figures should be treated with caution while there were few reasons to expect consumer spending to improve heading into 2018 – with wage growth failing to keep pace with inflation and signs of a stuttering jobs market.

Ruth Gregory, UK economist at Capital Economics, said the strength of November’s sales might simply have meant spending brought forward from December, potentially knocking growth in the run-up to Christmas.

But she added that with inflation likely to fall back and some survey evidence of pay growth picking up “there should be some scope for retail spending volumes to pick up more momentum in the New Year”.

The ONS data seemed to paint a gloomier picture than industry surveys.

Earlier this month, the British Retail Consortium said Black Friday had failed to provide a much-needed uplift with non-food retailers such as fashion stores struggling.

This week, retailer Dixons Carphone said it had enjoyed record Black Friday sales, despite weak demand for mobile phones that hit profits.

But home furnishings company Carpetright cut forecasts after warning of fragile consumer confidence.

Sports Direct UK sales fall amid shake-up

Boss Mike Ashley said the strategy was delivering “spectacular trading performance” at its flagship stores – and that it planned to open 10 to 20 more of these next year.

But other sites have been closing and online promotional activity has been scaled back, contributing to UK sports retail sales in store and online falling 1.4% to £1.12bn in the six months to 29 October.

Shares were down 9% in mid-morning trading but recovered most of those losses to close the day 2.2% lower.

The business also took a hit to its profit margin as it made provision for extra stock and counted the cost of the weak pound – which has driven up the price of imports.

Growth in overseas sales and premium lifestyle brands such as Flannels helped overall revenues climb 5% to £1.71bn.

Reported pre-tax profits for the half year were down 67% to £46m though this included the effect of one-off accounting adjustments and asset sales in the same period in 2016.

On an underlying basis, profits rose 23% to £88m.

Newcastle United owner and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley arrives at the High Court in London where he expected to give evidence in a trial in which he is being sued by a finance expert who says Mr Ashley reneged on a £15 million deal. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 5, 2017
Image:The results come a day after Mike Ashley received a bloody nose from shareholders

Mr Ashley, the colourful tycoon who owns the majority of the business and is also its chief executive, has previously described his ambition to turn Sports Direct into “the Selfridges of sports retailing”.

The plans involve opening smarter-looking stores in city centres showcasing premium products from the likes of Nike and Adidas and better competing with rival JD Sports.

Delivering the latest results, Mr Ashley said: “Our high street elevation strategy is currently delivering spectacular trading performance within our flagship stores.

“We intend to open between 10 and 20 new flagship stores next year.”

Openings will take place in locations such as Leicester, Watford and Thurrock, Mr Ashley added.

He said the business was on course to deliver its target for full-year underlying earnings growth.

Sports Direct has come under fire over alleged “Victorian” working conditions at its Shirebrook warehouse, prompting it to implement a series of workplace and pay reforms.

Mr Ashley said in the latest update that he was confident that improvements made over the past 18 months “have made a positive difference” and that it would continue to monitor working practices “to avoid complacency”.

The company appointed Alex Balacki, a workers’ representative elected by staff, to the board earlier this year and it said his inaugural period would be extended by a further year, to be followed by a new staff election.

It said it had “accepted a number of recommendations” from Mr Balacki and would provide an update on these “in due course”.

The half-year results come a day after independent shareholders rejected a proposal by Mr Ashley to pay his brother £11m.

Sports Direct had said John Ashley, who holds a senior IT position at the company, had missed out on a series of benefits that would have been due to him for fear they might be seen as inappropriate.

Mike Ashley, who owns Premier League side Newcastle United, has also been in the headlines recently over his attempt to sell the club.

Accepting EU law ‘price worth paying’: MPs

A report from the Treasury select committee (TSC) said there was now an urgent need for an agreement on transition, and delays risked damaging the economy.

It echoed warnings from the City that the longer arrangements for a transition are delayed, the more businesses would trigger contingency plans such as moving jobs abroad, from early next year.

The report was unanimously agreed by MPs on the cross-party committee with wide-ranging views on Brexit.

Nicky Morgan, chair of the committee, said: “Speed is of the essence.

“Delays to agreements caused by arguments over arcane points of principle could damage the economy.

“The Government should be prepared to accept the terms on which transition is offered by the EU27.”

She said this “may well include accepting EU rules beyond those of the single market and the customs union”.

It was also likely to involve retaining, on a temporary basis, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice “and the direct effect and supremacy of EU law”, Ms Morgan added.

“That is a price worth paying for stability and certainty after March 2019.”

The result is read out

Video:The moment May is defeated on key Brexit vote

Ms Morgan said the consequences of failing to reach an agreement would be “dramatic and damaging”.

“Many businesses will begin to prepare for a ‘no deal’ outcome – moving jobs and activity, and incurring potentially unnecessary expenditure – early next year,” she said.

“Transitional arrangements must therefore be straightforward enough to negotiate in a matter of weeks.”

The report was published as Theresa May headed to Brussels for talks with EU leaders, and hours after the Prime Minister suffered her first Commons defeat over Brexit.

Ms Morgan was one of 11 Tory MPs who voted against the Government.

China’s central bank raises interest rates after Fed rise
A solider stands in front of Tiananmen Gate in BeijingImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption It’s the first time China has raised rates since March

China’s central bank has followed the US Federal Reserve by raising interest rates, in a move that has surprised economists.

The People’s Bank of China lifted its 7-day and 28-day reverse repurchase agreements by 5 basis points.

This essentially represents a modest rise to borrowing costs and is the first rate hike since March.

Beijing is attempting to limit the flow of capital out of the country without harming economic growth.

In addition to short-term borrowing rates, China also increased rates on its one-year medium-term lending facility by 5 basis points.

China described the move as a “normal market reaction” to steps taken by the Federal Reserve.

The US central bank raised rates by 0.25% on Wednesday, its third rate rise this year.

The Fed said the move, which was widely expected, underscored “solid” gains in the US economy.

The decision to raise the cost of borrowing takes the Fed farther away from the ultra-low rates it put in place during the financial crisis to boost economic activity.

Against that backdrop, China is attempting to limit capital flowing out of the country in search of stronger returns.

But Bank of Communications analyst Chen Ji told Reuters the rate raise was too small to have much meaningful impact.

“(It) doesn’t really impact borrowing costs, and fluctuations of this level are very normal in the interbank market,” he said.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority also raised its base rate after the US hike. Hong Kong tracks Fed rate moves because its currency is pegged to the US dollar.

Speak up
Nicola MendelsohnImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption ‘Women get interrupted a lot’, says Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn

“I remember early in my career that sometimes I would have a thought in my head, but I lacked the confidence to be able to get that thought out,” says Nicola Mendelsohn.

“Then I would hear, usually a man, say the point that I had in my head, and I’d kick myself.”

Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle-East and Africa, has been described as the most powerful British woman in the tech industry.

She leads a team of hundreds and says she is “open, concise and clear” when speaking. However, she says women still face a significant communication problem in the workplace.

“Women get interrupted a lot, or people talk over them. I think there is an element that happens in the workplace where we actually condition women not to speak,” she tells the BBC’s The Why Factor.

Her anecdotal evidence is backed up by linguistic research. Despite the popular belief that women talk more than men, studies consistently suggest it’s actually men who hog most of the airtime.

Image copyrightRSNZ
Image caption Janet Holmes says her research found that men tended to ask more questions in public meetings

And having more women in meetings doesn’t help. The authors of the book The Silent Sex found in research that men out-talked women even when the group was 60% female. Women only spoke as much as men when they outnumbered them four to one.

Men are generally more vocal in other public forums too.

Listen to the BBC World Service’s The Why Factor on Men, Women and Language

In public meetings, men asked three-quarters of the questions, on average, while making up only two-thirds of the audience, according to analysis by Janet Holmes, professor of linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

They asked almost two-thirds of the questions when the audience was split equally.

Be assertive

So how can women ensure their voices are heard? A quick online search will yield a plethora of advice.

A lot of it centres on the idea that women aren’t assertive enough in their use of language. The Washington Post even described “woman in a meeting” as a language of its own.

A recent viral blog post by a former Apple and Google employee advised women to stop using the word “just”, describing it as a “subtle message of subordination, of deference” that is used more frequently by women than men.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Most linguists say it is impossible to generalise about male and female speech patterns

And in 2014 the shampoo brand Pantene released an advert encouraging women not to say sorry too much. It opened with the question “why are women always apologising?”

Sorry, are they?

According to Oxford University language professor Deborah Cameron the truth is much more complicated.

Although most linguists acknowledge that any social division, including gender, is bound to affect the use of language, she says it’s impossible to generalise about male and female speech.

“Almost all cultures have stereotypes and beliefs about this,” says Prof Cameron. “What’s interesting is that there’s disagreement over what the differences actually are.

“In some cultures they think women are much more direct than men, in fact they’re seen as too direct and even rude.

“In the West, the stereotype is the other way around; women are timid, diplomatic, and avoid rudeness and conflict.”

True or false?

Image copyrightGetty Images
  • Women talk more than men: Despite this longstanding belief, research consistently shows the sexes use roughly the same number of words a day, and men tend to dominate in conversations across a range of contexts
  • Women apologise more than men: There’s no evidence to suggest that women apologise more
  • Men interrupt more than women: This one is true and has been borne out by linguistic research
  • Men use more aggressive language: No, men and women use a range of linguistic styles and there are as many differences between individual men and women as there are between the sexes

Both Prof Cameron and Prof Holmes say these stereotypes are just that. In practice both men and women draw on aspects of language that are stereotypically masculine and feminine, depending on the context and what they want to achieve.

“There’s as much difference among men or among women as there is between the two,” says Prof Cameron.

Competent but disliked

However, for women, there can be a cost to using “male” language.

“There’s something psychologists call the competence likeability problem,” says Prof Cameron. “A woman who is judged competent will be seen as less likeable.”

A US study of performance evaluations in the tech sector found that women were much more likely than men to be given negative feedback about their personality or manner.

Words like “bossy”, “abrasive”, “strident”, and “aggressive” cropped up repeatedly for women, but not for men.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Women are more likely to be given negative feedback about than men

Nicola Mendelsohn says she was given this feedback early in her career, but has learnt to ignore it.

“Those are words that are used differently for men and for women. And for women they’re usually used in a negative way, but for men they’re used, weirdly, in a positive way. So I see it as an example of bias.”

Because of this bias, Prof Cameron argues that following advice to be more direct could in fact be counter-productive.

“There’s this whole industry that says ’empower yourself by changing the way you speak and you’ll be treated like men are’. In fact unfortunately that isn’t the case; women are not judged in the same way as men.

“A woman who asserts herself is judged as bossy and aggressive because it goes against our stereotype of what feminine behaviour ought to be. So the answer isn’t just to imitate men.”

Which begs the question, what is the answer?

“The men matter as much as the women here,” says Nicola Mendelsohn. “Men can be the allies here.

“We need men to actively sponsor women, for men to say, ‘I back you, I believe you can do this, how can I help you?’.”