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A third of male office workers think discussing periods is unprofessional

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Jessica Rapana
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A new study has found that 32% of men think talking about periods at work is inappropriate – and nearly half of women feel uncomfortable doing so. 

When you walk into work in the morning, there are some things best left at the door – Brexit, for instance, or how you really feel about your boss. And yet, it can still feel like women need to treat their periods – something much less controversial – with the same level of covert discretion.

Be it crippling cramps or a heavy flow, most of us have to navigate the realities of our periods in the workplace – probably on a monthly basis – so, why the CIA-level secrecy? While we might be making some progress around period stigma, the truth is we still have a bloody long way to go.

Case in point: 32% of men think it is “unprofessional” for women to talk about their period in the workplace, according to new research, confirming menstrual chat is still very much taboo.

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The survey conducted by Initial Washroom Hygiene of 2000 office workers found there is still a real fear of having open conversations about how periods affect women at work. Meanwhile, women polled said they would feel more comfortable with public speaking, admitting to a mistake at work or providing romantic advice in the workplace than discussing their periods in the presence of male colleagues.

What’s more, more than half of women said they would be reluctant to call in sick to work due to period-related symptoms, and 48% would hesitate to talk about these symptoms with their manager. In fact, nearly half (46%) of women said they would feel uncomfortable taking menstrual products, such as tampons or sanitary pads, out of their handbags or desks in front of colleagues – to the extent that four out of 10 women claim to have used these products for longer than medically advised due to either not having a replacement product and not wanting to ask a colleague for one.

period poverty
Tampon tax: "Even Barack Obama commented on the tax in 2016, arguing that if politics was a more female-friendly sphere then we wouldn’t be dealing with gender discriminatory policies like the tampon tax."

“The fact that a third of men think a grown-up discussion about menstrual hygiene is unprofessional, and that almost half of women feel uncomfortable discussing this element of their wellness with their manager, shows how much work needs to be done,” Sian Walkling, marketing manager at Initial Washroom Hygiene, said.

“Female employees shouldn’t feel embarrassed talking about menstrual hygiene in the office, especially when they find themselves faced with a situation they may inadvertently not be prepared for,” she added. “Normalising conversations about menstrual cycles and how they affect women is vital to achieving period dignity and a diverse workforce.”

Let’s be clear: there is nothing shameful about menstruating, so maybe it’s time to see that reflected in the workplace.

Image: Getty

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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