Rewind

The Week in Women: robot overlords, thermostat conspiracies, and a rogue breast attack

It’s been an interesting week for women on the job

Phoebe McPherson wears a Snuggie blanket at the LifeFuels office in Reston, Va. (Drew Angerer/The New York Times)

As the Jane Fonda/Lily Tomlin/Dolly Parton classic 9 to 5 taught us, it can be tough to be a woman in the workplace (also: use discretion when absconding with a dead body). This has certainly been an interesting week for women on the job, who have been forced to contend with everything from arctic temperatures to smart-aleck teens. Let’s take a look back.

It goes without saying that robots will one day take over the world, but women may have less cause to worry than men. Researchers at Oxford University have analyzed 700 occupations to determine how many could be performed by robots (yes, someone got a grant for that). The study argued that male-dominated and physically-demanding jobs, such as construction and carpentry, are more likely to be taken over by machines. Jobs relying on emotional and communication skills—like secretarial and nursing work, which tend to attract women—are less susceptible to automation. Of course, if our robot overlords are emotionally intelligent, we’re all doomed.

Being head of state certainly has its perks, but at the end of the day, it’s a pretty thankless job. Just ask Angela Merkel, whose name has been transformed into an insult by German teens. The verb “Merkeln”—meaning “to do nothing” or “to be unable to make decisions”—might very well be added to the list of “youth speak” by German dictionary manufacturer Langenscheidt.  Other contenders are “earthporn” (beautiful landscapes) and “smombie” (smartphone zombies). It’s probably not the lexical legacy Merkel hopes to leave, but at least those smombie teens have stopped looking at earthporn long enough to contemplate politics.

A new study has exposed the patriarchal conspiracy behind … office thermostats. Many businesses crank up the air conditioning in the summer, perhaps because research conducted in the 1960s identified optimal indoor temperatures based on the metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man. The aforementioned study posits that women’s metabolic rates can be up to 35 percent lower, which is why working women can often be seen huddling under pashminas during the height of summer. As we see it, businesses have two options: lower the AC, or institute the Snuggie as appropriate workplace attire. 

Men might not have to deal with office permafrosts, but they can have a hard time at work too. Take, for example, the Chinese policeman who was assailed by a rogue breast. A protester named Ng Lai-ying was recently sentenced to three-and-a-half months in prison after her chest bumped the arm of a policeman during a protest back in March. She was charged—and this is not a joke—with assaulting the officer with a single breast. Fortunately, Ng did not subject the officer to a double-breast attack. Imagine the carnage.

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