How can things change if there is so little action?

The taboo around menstruation at work

Very few workplaces have been improved to support menstrual health. Defined in April 2021 as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in relation to the menstrual cycle, ensuring an optimal state of menstrual health is not only a personal responsibility, but a social one that demands attention from employers everywhere.

  • There is a lack of safe access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities to hygienically manage menstruation, such as changing menstrual materials in private and having a place to dispose of them safely and discreetly;
  • They experience negative health consequences because there are limited or no supplies or pain management solutions; and/or
  • They power through their consistent monthly menstrual pain and discomfort, are reluctant to report symptoms or seek treatment for potential menstrual-related disorders.

What does a period-friendly workplace look like?

Encompassing a right-based approach that champions diversity, and recognises that the needs of different genders is essential to optimising the safety, health and wellbeing of all workers. Everyone must feel comfortable talking about their health and health needs at work, and employers should be willing to cater to the needs of their employees. Providing the appropriate facilities and creating a period-friendly environment, helps enable individuals that menstruate to be able to equally contribute to the workforce.

Concrete ways to do this are:

  • Providing free period products in all bathrooms. According to a study conducted by Free The Tampons, 86% of women have started their period in public without access to the period products that they need to function throughout the day. Providing period products in all bathrooms addresses gender equity and helps employees avoid stressful moments and can help lessen the burden of having to purchase period products for use at work
  • Safe, hygienic and discreet disposal in all washrooms, including instructions for responsible disposal and routine janitorial maintenance
  • Flexible working when possible (as opposed to menstrual leave), especially if tasks can be effectively managed from home, or making up for hours at another time (when applicable)
  • A relaxing space in the workplace, where possible to provide the feeling of comfort and support to take rest breaks, when and if needed
  • Promote an open conversation that acknowledges individual health differences. Destigmatizing menstruation can be accomplished through raising awareness and creating a shared and empathic culture where all employees feel like they can address their health without negative consequences. Ensuring that managers and HR are knowledgeable about reproductive and menstrual health is key towards the ultimately incorporation of menstrual health into a broader diversity and inclusion strategy.
  • Creating a budget line for ensuring a period-friendly workplace. If money is set aside to provide free toilet paper and cleaning supplies, basic period products should be included in the same budget.
  • Menstrual health literacy for all the workplace for individuals that menstruate and those that do not. This can include access to high-quality information about menstrual health, the cycle as well as menopause. This helps women feel more comfortable, recognize troubling symptoms for potential diagnosis and treatment of menstrual conditions or disorders, and contributes to the overall collective, knowledge, acceptance and support.

Countering the pushback

Menstruation is not a disability and people who menstruate are not inherently at a disadvantage. However, acknowledging the differences between those who have periods and those who do not is essential in 2021 and beyond.

It’s time for action

Luckily, there are amazing efforts to make menstrual health matter in the workplace:

  • Many menstrual coaches are starting to focus on ‘cycle syncing’, or educating women to use their menstrual cycles as a compass for optimizing productivity. This is based on the scientifically validated effects that estrogen and progesterone hormones have on women*’s overall physical, mental and social well-being, especially if the the energy of the follicular and ovulatory phases is leveraged for action and social activities, and the luteal and menstrual for more reflection and rest.
  • Flo Health App partnered with designer Sophia Luu to curate a set of four menstruation-related Slack emojis to better represent the experiences of people who menstruate.

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Madami

Madami

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Madami is a purpose-driven advisory & innovation agency specializing in femtech, sextech and gender lens investing