Women who are always freezing at work finally know who to blame: Men.
In a new report published Monday in Nature, researchers found that most office building temperatures are set using a decades-old formula for a “thermal comfort model” that takes into account factors like air temperature, air speed, and clothing insulation. That’s converted into a seven-point scale and compared to the Predicted Percentage Dissatisfied, which gauges how many people are likely to feel uncomfortably cool or warm.
The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the resting metabolic rate, or the measure of how fast we generate heat, that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds. But women, who make up half of today’s workforce, typically have slower metabolic rates because they’re on average smaller and have more body fat. Thus, the study says the current “thermal comfort model” may overestimate women’s resting heat production by up to 35%.
Women’s physiology and wardrobe selection are also factors. Joost van Hoof, a building physicist at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, was not involved in the study, but provided this memorable commentary to The New York Times:
“Many men, they wear suits and ties, and women tend to dress sometimes with cleavage. The cleavage is closer to the core of the body, so the temperature difference between the air temperature and the body temperature there is higher when it’s cold. I wouldn’t overestimate the effect of cleavage, but it’s there.”
What’s there to do about the problem? The study offers this solution: change the temperature setting formula. Accounting for women’s metabolic rates and body tissue insulation, female workers might prefer a 75 degree Fahrenheit office, the Times says. Typical office temperatures now hover around 70 degrees.