The working world was once the domain of men, back in an age when ignorance ran rife and pre-conceived notions of masculinity still dominated many aspects of life. More recently however this trend has shifted, and while we do still have some way to go the professional working woman is no longer an uncommon sight, and rightly so. Why is it then, with so many women taking their place in the working world, that the places in which we perform said work still seem to be geared so strongly towards men?

You see this evidence of this male-focused environment all the time while likely not even registering it. Management positions are still largely dominated by men, and certain industries such as tech and engineering have a widespread and well-known issue with diversity within their ranks. Even trivial things like toilet placement within an office block tend to favour male members of staff, and now a new study has highlighted another area in which the male workers are seemingly prioritised; namely air-conditioning.

This is according to a study conducted by Dr Boris Kingma and Professor Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt of the Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. They focused their study on 16 young women performing light office work, and found that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air-conditioning systems during the summer months as such systems are typically calibrated to suit the metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man. Women are known to have a significantly lower metabolic rate than men, generally speaking of course, well below the “standard values” used to set air-conditioning levels. This means they require less cooling and are often left shivering at their desks throughout what should be the warmer half of the year.

The aforementioned “standard values” of current air conditioning systems are derived from research conducted during the 1960s, in which the thermal comfort of 1,300 largely sedentary students was analysed. The study took into account a value for metabolic rate, which was based upon the resting metabolic rate of one 70kg 40-year-old man, and it is from this fact that today’s issue stems.

Furthermore, the model used to set indoor temperatures is believed to overestimate the heat generated by a sedentary woman by as much as 35%. As a result, the study found that “current indoor climate standards may intrinsically misrepresent thermal demand of the female and senior sub-populations.”

“Thermal comfort models need to adjust the current metabolic standard by including the actual values for females,” the authors said. “This in turn will allow for better predictions of building energy consumption, by reducing the bias on thermal comfort of sub-populations and individuals.”

By better adapting to the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce, the authors assert that businesses could save themselves a fortune by not only reducing the demand for air-conditioning systems, but also by boosting the productivity of their newly-comfortable female workforce.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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