Variable formula that is inherently sexist

Thomas Colquhoun-Alberts, Benchmark and Knowledge Manager, Workplace 

Image of Thomas Colquhoun-Alberts - Knowledge Manager

 

This week Time magazine wrote about a new report published in Nature that found that most office building temperatures are set using a decades-old formula for a “thermal comfort model”.

As Time explains, “The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the resting metabolic rate, or the measure of how fast we generate heat, that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

Apparently, according to Time, “women…typically have slower metabolic rates because they’re on average smaller and have more body fat. Thus, the study says the current ‘thermal comfort model’ may overestimate women’s resting heat production by up to 35%.”

Fair point. But being immersed in formula myself on a daily basis as part of my role as Benchmark and Knowledge Manager, I couldn’t help but zero in on a different formula, handily supplied by Time. It seems to me that it could easily be adapted to help explain some of the other challenges women and ethnic minorities face in today’s workplaces, in addition to biased thermal comfort models:

The formula:

 “The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that [insert variable description] that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

The application:

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the measure of job competency that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the preferred height of a ‘leader’ that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the ideal candidate that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the secret handshake and wink that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that credit for ideas and rewarding innovation that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the measure of personal gravitas that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the preferred background and life experiences of employees that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the science of physiognomy that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the size of the boots that must be filled that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the hair colour of our inspiring leader confidently standing with hands on hips before the controls of the Star Ship Enterprise with a thousand light year stare into the middle distance of deep space and that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

“The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that we’ve always had in mind a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.”

This is why we continuously strive to update our workplace formulas.