If there’s one thing most women have in common, besides ovaries or a crush on Chris Hemsworth, it’s that they’re always cold.
And few places dish out female frostbite better than the office.
Up until now, most of us have assumed that scarves, boots, and tights around the office were the unfortunate but unavoidable by-product of woman’s natural struggle against the forces of room temperature and inherently grim fashion sense. As it turns out, we were wrong.
According to a recent paper from Nature Publishing Group, it’s a by-product of sexism.
According to the paper, when office buildings decide the temperature at which their patrons will conduct business, they don’t just pick a number out of a fedora; sometimes, they have a defined set of indoor climate regulations based on a particular thermal comfort model designed and introduced in the 60s.
Part of this model involves calculations applied to avoid the “thermal discomfort” of building occupants. One of the main variables used to determine temperatures at which discomfort is minimized is the rate at which we produce energy/heat (metabolic rate) while at rest. Or in the context of a workplace, while checking Facebook or trying not to laugh at a group chat during meetings.
And when I say “the rate at which we produce energy/heat,” what I mean is “the rate at which a 40-year-old 154 pound man produces energy/heat.” This benchmark hasn’t been formally updated in over 50 years.
So when your metabolic standard is Jimmy Fallon, you end up overestimating the heat produced by all the Tina Feys by up to 35%, leaving almost half the office shivering on their conference calls. Offices currently tend to hover around 21 degrees, but if you adequately account for female biology, they really should be closer to 24.
And that’s not even considering the fact that corporate culture in North America makes men feel silly for showing off their cleavage and pedicures in presentations, thus driving them to adopt more concealing and ultimately warmer wardrobes relative to their female counterparts.
So next time a woman complains about how cold it is in the office, don’t just chuckle and chalk it up to girls being girls; grab them a coffee and a company-branded Snuggie and then fire an email off to your landlord. Because it turns out that while it is girls being girls biologically, socially it’s kind of guys being dicks.