Any woman who’s had to resort to keeping a blanket at her desk to endure Arctic office temperatures while her male co-workers go about their days in comfortable oblivion may have had the sneaking suspicion that air-conditioning is actually a sexist conspiracy. It turns out it really is!
According to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, most office buildings set their thermostats using a formula based on the metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man. Yet because women are often smaller and have more body fat than men, they also tend to have slower metabolic rates — meaning that the current standards for air-conditioning are way too cold for most women. After studying women doing seated work while wearing light clothing, researchers found that women’s average metabolic rate was 20 to 32 percent lower than the rates used to determine standard office temperatures.
The study’s authors suggest adjusting the standard temperature formula — which was developed in the 1960s — to include metabolic rates of both women and men. They also note that reducing “gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort” would result in setting building temperatures at slightly warmer levels — thereby conserving energy and helping to combat global warming. In case anyone needs more incentive to create less-frigid work environments, researchers have also found that frozen employees are less productive.