Some like it hot! Why women prefer warmer temperatures

by | Jun 20, 2016

The battle of the sexes is being fought over air conditioning - women prefer warmer temperatures.

Look around any office on a hot summer’s day.  The men are all sweating in their shirtsleeves and asking to turn the air conditioning higher, while the women are plugging in space heaters under their desks.  According to building engineers M.E. Group uncomfortable temperatures are the most common complaint people make about their workplace. [Tweet "Research shows that women prefer warmer temperatures to men."]

women prefer warmer temperatures

Why women prefer warmer temperatures

Lab experiments reveal men are most comfortable at around 22oC (72F) while for women it’s about 25oC (77F).  It’s not just because women are generally smaller.  Men and women have roughly the same core temperature but men tend to have a greater blood flow to their skin, so they feel warmer on the outside even though they’re the same on the inside. [Tweet "Men also sweat more, making a too-warm office especially uncomfortable for them."]

Most workplaces have centrally controlled air conditioning, often with no settings except ‘on’ and ‘off’.  America’s federal offices all have their air conditioning set by the General Services Administration’s Washington, DC headquarters – that’s 9,000 offices across the country, with 2.1 million employees, all set to the same temperature.  Modern buildings have adjustable thermostats in each room, which helps, but doesn’t stop the gender divide within shared offices.

The fact is that most air conditioning systems are designed to the same template.  Building engineers use a standardised set of temperature guidelines – the Standard 55, published by built environment specialists ASHRAE, is the most popular.  These guidelines are based on metabolic rates, the rate at which humans need to burn calories to keep warm.  The trouble is that the standard metabolic rate is set for a 70kg man, aged 40, wearing a business suit.  When the Standard 55 was first published in 1966, this was a fairly close representation of the average office worker; not so much today.  A 2015 study showed that not only do women prefer warmer temperatures, they also feel tempe

Workplace dress codes don’t help.   Most offices insist that men wear ties and long trousers in all seasons, and most don't change their summer wardrobe from their winter one. Women are allowed to dress more appropriately for hot weather   -or are they just smarter about dressing for the right temperature? Read: How to dress for summer in the city Bjarne Oleson, who sits on ASHRAE’s board of directors, says that mismatched dress codes are the reason women prefer warmer temperatures: “Women adapt their clothing to summer conditions while men are still wearing [a] suit and tie. [Tweet "So if the thermostat is set to satisfy the men, the women will complain about being too cold.”"]

Read: Will a casual dress code impact the war for talent?

Innovations like ‘smart’ electronic cooling systems promise a high-tech solution to the air conditioner wars.

But really, wouldn’t it be easier to turn the thermostat up a bit and men get with it and wear lighter weight clothes to the office in the summer?

This is even true across other species – female rats  are more sensitive to cold than males are.  And hormonal fluctuations affect women’s comfort too – they tend to have a hotter core temperature when ovulating and be colder just before their period.

If you’re struggling with workplace issues  and want to boost your confidence  book a mentoring session here


Alice Bell Contributor
"Alice writes online about business, popular science, and women's lifestyle. After a few years working her way around the world, she has settled in the north of England and taken a day job as a maths teacher. Her life's ambition is to earn enough money to start repaying her student debt."

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