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The heat wave revives the controversy: is air conditioning sexist?

On a Friday in July, at 10 in the morning, the last work day of the week begins. On the street, a temperature of 32 degrees in the shade and, in the office, it still seems like it’s February. It is the reality of many women when the summer months arrive, and the air conditioners force them to go to their jobs warmer than what the summer season requires.

The battle over the regulation of air conditioning in work spaces has been a topic of debate in recent years. The arguments vary between the harmful effects that this has for everyone’s health, for women in particular and, now also, for the environment.

In 2020, a Unidas Podemos councilor in the Alicante City Council, Vanesa Romero, stated, during a municipal plenary session, that the temperature established for the air conditioning in the entire room represented “micro-machismo.” The media then echoed the question: Is air conditioning sexist?

According to some studies, the gender gap It is so camouflaged among the most basic traditions of our society that it can even sneak into the ventilation ducts of your workspace, causing you not only to feel cold, but also to perform less at work.

For example, in 2015, a study published in the journal Nature documented that the usual temperature of offices had been regulated since the 1960s, thinking about the comfort of a man of about 40 years old, weighing 70 kilos, and dressed in a suit. and tie. It is logical, then, that the women get cold in summer. Especially because their bodies – the publication’s experts explain – need about three degrees more temperature.

A claim that, for many people, may sound banal and easily replaceable, but that, for women, can lead to a real health problem. According to the University of Utah School of Medicine, in an article published by National Geographic, women are up to five times more likely to develop Raynauda disorder that causes blood vessels to collapse after exposure to low temperatures.

The power to decide if we want air or not.


An experimental study published in 2019 by the journal PLOS One ensures that in colder temperatures, men are more skilled in verbal or arithmetic exercises. However, the increase in temperature within an enclosed workspace is directly proportional to the increase in women’s productivity scores.

That is to say, the default temperature design in offices has been designed by men and for men, which, scientifically, places women at a disadvantage. Researcher Agne Kajackaite, who participated in the last mentioned study, concluded bluntly what these findings meant on a real social level: “When the temperature rises, the gender gap disappears”.

From the CC.OO. union, the researcher Claudia Narocki advocates that in the workplace the recent Plan for the General Administration of the Statewhich seeks to reduce energy consumption through the limitation of temperatures in air-conditioned premises.

The plan details that in these spaces do not exceed 19.ºC when it is necessary to use heating and not be below 27.ºC when refrigeration is necessary.

But this plan clashes with the premises where light (non-sedentary) activities are carried out, That is, when you are sitting comfortably, from writing to driving, in them, the temperature will be between between 14.ºC minimum and 25 ºC maximum.

Furthermore, in matters of gender and thermal sensation it is important to distinguish between different situations. For example, the offices in which man and women they dress in a similar waythat is, a law firm where both they and they usually wear suits.

There are also shops, department stores or establishments facing the public where the clerks, whether men or women, wear a similar uniform, while, in certain jobs, since the clothing is not “determined” in a fixed way, some wear a jacket. and others without it can lead to this type of problems with the air conditioning.

Sometimes clothes are a condition


“It’s another thing to ask yourself if there are biological differences; that is, if the physiological response of men and women to environmental temperatures is different“adds the researcher.

Regarding this last aspect, certain scientists affirm that such a difference does not exist and that the different Thermal sensation has to do with factors such as the superficial size of the skin of people and other related aspects.

The debate even reached New York primary elections in 2018. The actress who gave life to the famous Miranda in Sex in New York, Cynthia Nixonran as a candidate against Andrew Cuomo, with a campaign that included this refrigeration claim.

Cuomo was well known in political circles for usually holding his rallies in almost frozen venues. Therefore, during an electoral debate, held by CBS, Nixon requested to set the set temperature at 24.4°C. One of its strategy managers wrote to the network alleging that “the cooling of closed spaces” was “notoriously sexist.” Her candidate didn’t want to be cold.

Multitudes of women praised and shared her request on social networks. This was the case of the American essayist Kerry Howleywho posted on his Twitter account: “49% of Americans are controlling 100% of office thermostats.”

I have **never** felt more invested in a political debate. 49 percent of Americans control 100 percent of the office thermostats. Don’t engage me unless you’re willing to argue at 79 degrees.

—Kerry Howley (@KerryHowley) August 28, 2018

There is still much left in this ‘gender battle in the workplace’ that, without a doubt, will continue to be debated. Meanwhile, there are still experts who assure that biologically we are different and that this must be taken into account when turning on the air conditioning in those spaces shared between men and women.

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