Are office ACs sexist? Are the temperatures set to levels where winter winds are always blowing for women, while men can compare every day to a summer’s day?
Or is it all just hot air? ACs are just doing their job — keeping a building cool — and women need to chill about it?
Yes, the ACs are sexist. Ask your freezing selves.
The road to success, says popular wisdom, is covered in sweat. Only, women in corporate offices just don’t get to sweat. Instead, they spend their time in the winter of discontent, swathed in shawls and cardigans, their fingers cold, their legs crossed under them to prevent their toes from freezing.
No, women aren’t being “sensitive”. No, they aren’t simply fond of pretty shawls. The hoodie draped on their chair isn’t there to mark territory.
Office temperatures are set to suit men, who have higher body mass index (BMI) and faster metabolism rates than women. Thus, men are able to happily function with their shirt-sleeves rolled up, while women are left out in the cold, literally and figuratively.
Most commercial buildings follow America’s ASHRAE Standard 55 code for indoor thermostat temperatures. This was decided in the 1960s, and a 40-year-old man weighing 70 kg — and wearing a three-piece 60s-style business suit — was the human being the standards were set for.
For women in offices, winter is never coming. It's always there.
Most women, not meeting even one of the above criteria, down to the three-piece suit, are thus naturally at a disadvantage.
This means women have to be extra-alert to make sure they don’t make mistakes — scientific research exists to prove employees feeling cold tend to commit more errors —constantly suffer colds and headaches, and drink endless cups of tea/coffee to keep the internal fire burning on days they forget protective gear.
To those who say this is much ado about nothing — that, after all, "it’s just a matter of carrying a shawl around" — no, it’s a bigger problem than that.
It is just another manifestation of the mentality that the “default human” is a man. Institutional settings are decided keeping men in mind, and women are unaccounted-for additions who need to find their own comforts. Or, live without them. And certainly go without the confidence and exuberance feeling comfortable in your skin at the workplace does bestow.
For gender equality at workplaces, women need to be considered as equally important in the scheme of things as men. For equality to be in the air, conditioning needs to begin at every level.
Despite the temptation to think so, no, air-conditioners in offices are not sexist
Every time I have to wrap a shawl around me while watching the rest of the world being singed outside the glass wall of my chilling office, I want to blame someone.
Sexism is the easiest bet as it would not bite me back (like the cold), but then, I came across some of my male colleagues who are not as snug in the ‘Siberian’ temperature as I would have liked them to be. Also, there are women who don’t need any extra layer to survive in the office temperature.
So, no, not all men! Also, no, not all women.
The report calling out the ‘secret sexism’ behind office air-conditioner temperatures is based on the finding that in the sixties, the temperatures were set according to the body temperature of a 40-year-old man, weighing around 11 stone, which is about 70 kgs.
This assumption had no place for women, like the workplaces of the sixties.
Things have changed. But are we still using those ACs, engineered in sixties technology? Then, it’s worrying. Not only for women. But also for men, who are not 40 and nowhere near 70kg, and also for technological development.
One size does not fit all. Same with BMI.
Thus, we've got the best example of the worst case of generalisation: Women feel cold in office ACs, and men feel warm.
Not Him Too: Are we seriously claiming all men have the same BMI?
Also, have you ever thought which sexism would want women to put on layers of clothes? As in, who is being benefitted?
Talking about benefits, lower temperatures are actually making our electricity boards richer as our offices are spending too much electricity to keep the ‘heat’ off.
If our offices lower the temperature, they can actually save a lot of money, probably more than they do by denying equal pay.
Cynthia Nixon may not feel comfortable in the temperature of the hall before her debate against Andrew Cuomo. They were both part of the New York governor Democratic primary debate.
But for you and me, there are many crucial gender battles to be fought.
Next time you feel frozen, don’t curse all the men in the world.
Just call up the AC guy (have never met any AC girl so far) and ask him to raise the temperature.
Your office will love you for saving money.