Why women feel colder in shared workspaces…

26/07/21

Diane Hall

Cold at work

There’s always been a debate around the ‘glass ceiling’ in companies, and whether women can push past the men in suits to govern firms or sit on their boards. Certainly, before the pandemic, the picture looked better than it had generations ago. The ratio of women in senior roles was slowly increasing each year (jumping from 1.9% of CEOs in 2009 to 7% in 2019).


Since then, of course, we’ve gone through a pandemic. It’s caused upheaval everywhere…businesses have folded, redundancies have been made, and working parents have been stressed beyond belief.


I’m a regular reader of Mumsnet (shoot me), and I’ve seen many a thread posted by women who feel their careers have gone backwards since coronavirus came on the scene. It’s mostly women who have had to fill in at short notice and take care of children when nurseries were told to close by government or if someone in their kids’ bubble tested positive.


According to Parliament: ‘Mothers were 23% more likely than fathers to have lost their jobs (temporarily or permanently) during the crisis in May 2020. During this time mothers in paid work were 47% more likely than fathers to have permanently lost their job or quit, and they were 14% more likely to have been furloughed.’


These numbers paint this exact picture. Women have taken the Covid hit.


This article isn’t just about mothers, though, because not every female has children. It’s about gender bias in the world as a whole.


Because we live in a world designed by, and for, men.

Invisible women by Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible women by Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible women by Caroline Criado Perez

I’m currently reading Caroline Criado Perez’s book, Invisible Women, and some of the facts she cites are astounding. For instance, women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured than men in a car accident, because of a car’s safety measures, which are designed based on the proportions of the average male (e.g. the height of the seatbelt, airbags, etc.).


Male actors, according to statistics, spend twice as much time on screen than their female counterparts. Whilst men get to age gracefully in the industry, women aren’t given the same freedom.


In 2013, Andy Murray was ‘the first British tennis player to win Wimbledon in 77 years’. Not true. Virginia Wade won it in 1977, but this, apparently, doesn’t count. A couple of years after Murray’s ‘historic’ win, a reporter informed him that he was ‘the first person ever to win two Olympic gold medals for tennis’. Murray himself corrected the uninformed journalist in question, stating that the Williams sisters had won about eight gold medals between them by that point.


The standard temperature in a UK office is set at the metabolic resting rate of the average 40-year-old man. In the office where I work, it’s therefore no surprise that myself and my female colleague are the ones that plead for the heater to be turned on/the air conditioning off. The metabolic resting rate of the average women is five degrees warmer than a male’s—no wonder the temperature is always too cold for us. As I write, it’s 30°C outside, yet I still brought a cardigan to work as it can get a tad nippy when the air conditioning has been at full belt for hours. My male colleagues look at me incredulously if I put it on. I’m glad there’s a scientific reason for my cold shoulders…I feel vindicated.

Cleaning Equipment in a blue washing up bowl

Cleaning Equipment in a blue washing up bowl

And what about workplace health and safety? Some roles, traditionally populated by women, such as carers or cleaners, are not seen as physically taxing jobs. Yet when the former has to lift a whole other person into a bath or bed, and when the latter has to carry full buckets of water up several flights of stairs, this is inaccurate. According to Hazards Magazine, women in these roles ‘can often lift more than a construction worker or miner’, but who would believe that? As a result, nothing is done. No protection or support is designed or implemented.


The world is designed by men, for men…mainly because men tend to be in positions where they’re tasked with design, creation and innovation. Whilst I don’t believe their thought processes are malicious or their decisions consciously made to keep women at a disadvantage, male bias occurs because they don’t automatically see the world from a female’s perspective (despite the fact we represent 50% of the population). For gender balance to take place, they need to be prompted to do this, or better still, the world needs to place more women in positions of influence.


Women, if contemplating walking home on an evening, think about their route, defence strategies, their footwear and more, to ensure they arrive there safely. In comparison, men simply…walk home. In the recent Sarah Everard case, her murderer, policeman Wayne Couzens, was well-known amongst his colleagues and peers as someone with an agenda against women. His words and behaviour were worrying; he would purposely target women for non-existent traffic offences, and he regularly sat outside women’s houses. His employers/the authorities clearly felt this wasn’t a concern, however, and so he was allowed to carry on—which resulted in a horrific crime. What was deemed dangerous by the police were women, tired of such bias, holding a candlelit vigil in a London park. These ladies were forcibly arrested. Who, really, was the most dangerous, though: Couzens or a handful of protestors?


There’s undoubtedly bias on the other side, where women seem to have the better deal over men, but, as demonstrated in Perez’s book and numerous other sources, the workings of the world seem to be heavily weighted in men’s favour. There’s so much more I could have put into this article (for example, I haven’t even touched gender inequality in religion), but I think you’ll agree that I’ve made enough of a point.


I just want to ask: how do we gain equal balance between genders? Will it ever happen? In whose lifetime?

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