Here's Why Office Air Conditioning Is Sexist

Not cool.

If you are a woman at work right now, chances are you're cold. No, you're not just that person who's always cold because it's "your thing." If you talk to other female co-workers, they're probably cold too.

This is real, people, and as I write this right now, I'm feeling pretty damn cold myself. But why is it most women move through the halls of their office with chattering teeth and sweaters, while their male counterparts sit comfortably at their computers, chomping on celery sticks, or whatever it is they chomp on?

A study published Monday in the journal of Nature Climate Change revealed that modern air conditioning regulations that keep office buildings at a cool 71.6 degrees may be inherently sexist. These A/C standards created in the 1960s, a time when the workforce mostly consisted of men, are based on the metabolic rates of an average resting 40-year-old, 154-pound man, notes TODAY.

According to the Nature Climate Change study, this decades-old "thermal comfort model," that we still use today for some godforsaken reason, "may overestimate female metabolic rate by up to 35%... This may cause buildings to be intrinsically energy inefficient in providing comfort to females." 

And in case you haven't noticed the current formula used (created in the 1960s REMEMBER) for the comfort of men should be totally obsolete, given that 58.6 percent of people working, or looking for work, today are women, according to the United Stated Department of Labor. 

Women prefer a temperature of around 75 degrees. 

"It might sound like a bit of a silly, light-hearted issue, but actually it's really uncomfortable being freezing at your desk every day," says The Telegraph's Radhika Sanghani.

"Women tend to have lower basal metabolic rates, so they tend to burn off energy a lot slower,'' Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil of NYU School of Medicine told Jenna Wolfe on TODAY Tuesday. "They actually give off less heat than men, so they tend to be colder."

But as the women in the Sky News video above point out, there are several factors besides being physiologically different from men, contributing to women's discomfort in the office. Female fashion, for instance, plays a part in warmer months when the temperature is hotter outside than it is inside, and women dress in outfits with more skin exposed to the cold air.  Alan Hedge, an ergonomics professor at Cornell University,  also told New York Times that women traditionally move around less than men in the office, so their bodies generate less heat.  

Hedge also explained his research shows temperature affects productivity, and that people are more likely to make mistakes at work when they are cold. 

So, what's the solution?


"I think we need a bit more flexibility," says Sanghani in the Sky News video. "...if an office is noticing a number of women complaining about the cold, they need to be more flexible. They need to actually lower it [the A/C], rather than just saying 'Oh, the men are fine.' ...Maybe they can be more flexible with men not wearing suits in some offices, and they can come in t-shirts or whatever they need to be the right temperature." 

While flexibility is a must, it's heartening to know other tangible steps are being taken to make everyone feel more comfortable in the office. 

Gail S. Brager, a University of California, Berkeley professor in the architecture department told the Times building designers are beginning to include temperature and ventilation systems for individual work stations so employees can have personal control over their comfort. 

Praise be. 

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