Credit: William Sherman/Flickr

Is your air conditioning sexist?

The humble AC unit is the latest office appliance to be outed for its chauvinistic tendencies.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 05 Aug 2015

Is it cold in here? Well, no if you ask me, but then apparently that’s because I’m a man. A study in the journal Nature Climate Change has shown that office air conditioning units are set for men’s metabolic rates rather than women’s.

Men, apparently, tend to need lower ambient temperatures because they usually have more muscle, less fat and more bulk than women. They also tend to wear less seasonal clothing in summer, something unlikely to change until trouser shorts and sandals become de rigueur in the British office.

Though this happily settles the question of why air con can leave male workers nice and refreshed on a hot summer’s day while their shivering female colleagues have to resort to warming their hands on the faint glow from their computer screens, it’s not exactly a great sign of work place equality.

It’s true that there’s something inherently unjust about temperatures being set for men and ignoring women’s different physiological needs. It’s also true that it’s better for the planet to use the AC less (the same also applies for heating in winter). A compromise would seem fairest.

Or would it? If it’s cold in the office, there are several easy solutions, after all. Bring a coat. Take a two minute break in the sunshine. Do some light jogging around the printer. If it’s sweltering both inside and out, though, there’s nowhere to hide. Short of stripping off (inappropriate) or dunking your head in the sink every ten minutes (impractical) or working with your head out the window (plain stupid), you just have to suffer.

If that’s not enough to deter you from making that dash for the AC control panel, consider this. Do you really want to see all those sweat patches? A cold office could be a blessing in disguise.

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