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Chilly working environments are sexist, says New York candidate Cynthia Nixon

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Actress turned politician Cynthia Nixon is aiming to improve the climate for women across the United States … by getting the room temperature turned up.

The team backing Nixon’s bid to become New York governor hit out at “notoriously sexist” chilled work environments that leave women shivering by asking for a debate hall to be warmed to 76 Fahrenheit (24 Celsius), the New York Times reported.

Nixon, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of lawyer Miranda Hobbes on the HBO show “Sex and the City,” is trailing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in opinion polls as they battle for the state’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination next month.

Nixon’s campaign staff made the demand as she prepared for her only televised debate with Cuomo, who is said to routinely ask for rooms to be heavily chilled, as he seeks a third term.

The calls from Nixon’s team were met with eye-rolling by some politics watchers, but scientists say they have some basis in truth.

Women feel the cold more, according to a 2015 study in the journal Nature Climate Change which found women prefer rooms to be about 3 degrees C (5 F) warmer than men.

“Women in general produce less heat than men, and therefore need to lose less heat to maintain a stable body temperature,” Boris Kingma, one of the paper’s authors, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As a result, women are more sensitive to cold environments than men, he said.

They also often wear lighter clothing, adding to the disparity, added Kingma, a biophysical researcher at The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research.

“It’s the thermostat wars,” said Adam Taylor, Director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre at Lancaster University.

He said that the difference comes down to anatomy, as men produce more heat due to their higher average metabolism rates.

Men are typically most comfortable between 21 C (70 F) and 22 C (72 F) and women between 24 C (75F) and 25 C (77 F), he said.

“There is potentially overlap between those two, but it varies from person to person,” he said.

Women’s temperatures also vary through the month due to hormonal changes, so even if a truce is found in the gender heating wars it may need to be renegotiated regularly, he added.