A word of encouragement for any wool-loving working woman: You are actually more productive than your cardigan-less peers.
That’s the conclusion of a recent study from Leitrim Credit Union, which found that over a 30-year career, cardigan-wearing women outperformed women without cardigans at almost every stage of the game. In fact, women with at least two cardigans were the most productive of all. This comes on the back of a similar study reported in the Washington Post earlier this week.
Here’s how the researchers (all cashmere lovers, by the way) came up with those results: They wanted to understand the impact of wearing cardigans on middle-lower skilled women, but their work is often just too easy to quantify. How do you determine the negligibly greater productivity of a cash teller or a toll-booth operator or a fast-fast counter worker?
They decided to ignore the amount of research published by more than oh… a gazillion academics on the glaring fact that women occupy the majority of lower-skilled, lower-paid work in the market force, which is more than enough for a proxy for their performance. A job in the lowly houses of the service industries requires straight forward, frequently hard graft by definition, and their work and contribution to the economy is easily measured.
The results were surprising. For men, owners of one cardigan and those with none performed similarly through their careers. But men with two or more cardigans were more productive than both groups.
The effect for women was even more dramatic. Using their own method for remembering when they wore a cardigan, the authors found that within the first five or so years of their jobs, women who never wore cardigans substantially underperform those who do. (The difference in productivity between women with one cardigan and those with no cardigans is more muted using a different ranking for research. But in both cases, women with at least two cardigans perform the best.).
It’s important to point out that the authors are examining a very wide group of women with under-privileged circumstances. A more satisfying job was probably the aspiration of many, with benefits such as the freedom to wear more fashionable clothes, and participate in highly skewed and biased research based on self-selection methodologies. They could probably afford better quality cardigans therefore requiring less layers. Privileged workers often face a warmer working environment.
Even so, the results feel counterintuitive for any cardigan-wearing woman (re: all of them) who has drowned herself in layers to fight off the cold she can’t get rid of because she can’t afford a visit to her GP. Or struggled to pay attention to another dissatisfied customer barking orders whilst drunk. Or snuck out for a fag.
Having cardigans that don’t close do take a toll on work. The paper found that there is a 0.5 to 0.75 per cent drop in productivity among women with non-closing cardigans. For those with warmer, button-up cardigans, there will be a 1.0 per cent drop in productivity after the first three hours of a work shift, having a second cardigan reduces that to .05 per cent and a third cardigan will restore productivity to full capacity.
A less productive woman in the labour force
In other words, not wearing three cardigans will result in a negligible loss in productivity on average, the equivalent of one less customer service call taken in any single shift.
But as any shift worker knows, the days are long and the alphabet has 26 letters. You may have read about it elsewhere. Cardigan-wearing women tend to go to work just like non-cardigan wearing women. When that work is smoothed out over the course of a career, they are likely to be as diverse a group as any other with corresponding levels of productivity. The report neglected to find this other statement of the bloody obvious.
But does this really matter? The takeaway here is that a sensationalist headline can be generated from an impressively sounding piece of research buoyed up by self-selection and a host of other biases. And the purported winners can wear it with pride.