Toronto Star

Men chill out while women freeze at the office

Women resort to sweaters as air-conditioni­ng is set low to accommodat­e men in suits


You can spot them. The frozen ones who come outside at lunch like sunseeking turtles, cardigans balled up next to them, bare shoulders defrosting in the noon sunlight, no matter how wilting it is outdoors.

Every single woman I talked to in downtown Washington on a hot, humid July afternoon was thawing out.

“I. Am. Fuh-reezing. Feel my hand, I’m still cold,” said Ruth Marshall, 64, seated on a park bench with her face to the sky. And yes, her hand felt like a cold steak.

“I have to come out here for 30 minutes at a time just to warm up,” said Marshall, the director of administra­tion at a constructi­on firm, where the air conditioni­ng is set to arctic.

It’s the time of year desperate women rely on cardigans, pashminas and space heaters to make it through the work week in their frigid offices. And their male colleagues barely notice.

“Is your office too cold?” I asked a clutch of men dressed in pin stripes, charcoal pants and crisp shirts with the faint outline of undershirt­s beneath.

They looked at me as if I spoke in Finnish, confident faces contorted in puzzlement. “No.” “Nah, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

So I asked another guy in a navy suit eating a taco. “No. It’s fine.” Two dudes in matching blue shirts and red ties? “Fine.” “No.” Zippity happity do da fine. Hmm. A pattern? Let’s be scientific about this, then. How about a female-centric office? At EMILY’s List, which raises money for women running for office, the temperatur­e setting must be femalefrie­ndly, right?

“It’s freezing, here’s my sweater,” said one of the outdoor she-turtles, who works at the woman-powered firm.

“But we don’t have control over the temperatur­e on our floor,” she clarified. “It’s set for the whole building.” By a man, perhaps? How about men and women who work in the same office? (Because we’re doing top-notch investigat­ive work here.)

I found a trio eating lunch together: two women — shoulders bare — and a man in handsome navy twill pants and a smart, checkered button-down shirt.

They all work together at a company that deals with internatio­nal education issues. How’s the weather inside while they’re working on educating the globe? “Cold.” “Freezing” “It’s fine.” You know I don’t have to tell you who said what.

So there you have it: the gender divide, thermostat edition. All these women who actually dress for the season — linens, sundresses, flowy silk shirts, short-sleeve tops — changing their wardrobes to fit the sweltering temperatur­es around them.

And then there are the men, stal- wart in their business armour, manipulati­ng their environmen­t for their own comfort, heaven forbid they make any adjustment­s in what they wear.

That’s right, my friends. Air conditioni­ng is another big, sexist plot.

“It’s been going on for years, every building I’ve been in. It’s awful,” said Marshall, who has worked in Wash- ington since 1973. “Everything is set at 21 degrees for those test oster-onetoting people.”

Marshall explained how frustratin­g it is to put on a pretty summer outfit and then get hit with that blast of cold. “And you have to put on some jacked-up sweater you left at your desk.”

OK. I think Marshall was finally heated up.

Setting the temperatur­e to suit men is wrong in ways that go far beyond summer fashion.

Frozen workers make more errors and are less productive, according to Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmen­tal analysis and director of Cornell’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, who studied office temperatur­es about a decade ago.

Researcher­s had their hands on the controls at an insurance office for a month. And when they warmed the place from 20 to 25 degrees, typos went down by 44 per cent and productivi­ty went up by 150 per cent.

Plus, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates you can save about 11 per cent on power bills by raising the thermostat from 22 to 25 degrees.

And the men can just switch to more reasonable fashion choices for warmer offices. I see plenty of tan summer suits around town. And even some linen or seersucker from the Southern delegation­s to D.C. But come on, men, be bold. I’m talking short suits. They’re adorable! Plus, we’d all love to see your knees, guys.

 ?? DREAMSTIME ?? Back off the AC: Frozen workers make more errors and are less productive, according to research by Cornell.
DREAMSTIME Back off the AC: Frozen workers make more errors and are less productive, according to research by Cornell.

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