Are Freezing Offices a Form of Sex Discrimination?

by Nicole Weber | August 03, 2015

  • My Vault

Freezing cold in your office this summer? You aren’t alone, especially if you are female. A new study suggests that biological differences between men and women are to blame for the icy thermostat settings in your office. Buildings apparently use a decades-old formula to determine summer temperatures, reports the NY Times. The formula was developed in the 1960s, when most U.S. office-workers were men, and uses the metabolic rate of a 40 year old male as one of its variables.

No wonder I have spent so many summers shivering at my desk, drinking coffee, then tea, then hot water with lemon, as I huddle under a blanket and inch closer to my space heater. There are certainly days when I have struggled to focus on my work because I’ve been so chilled. (Luckily I don’t have this complaint at my current job. Vault’s office, or perhaps just the area where I sit, miraculously doesn’t feel like an icebox). I’ve always marveled at the waste of energy that goes into the intense air-conditioning of office buildings, and now there’s an explanation: it’s just another vestige of male-dominated office culture that continues to make women’s lives difficult today. Similar to the pay gap, and the lack of sufficient maternity leave benefits at many companies.

The study’s authors suggest changing the cooling formula to incorporate actual metabolic rates of workers at a particular office. Seems logical to me—why should companies waste thousands of dollars in air conditioning expenses AND make people miserably cold, thus limiting productivity? While changes may be far off, at least the conversation about the “Great Artic Office Conspiracy,” as the Times dubbed it, has begun.

Read More:
Are Summer Jobs on the Way Out?
How Should College Students Spend Their Summer?

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