We’re women, we menstruate, and we’re part of the workplace – yet our periods are never catered for by employers. Here’s why now is the time for change.
Picture a world where we have to remember to bring our own toilet roll to work, or risk being caught short.
It would be a world where we, as adults, would be forced to awkwardly ask our colleagues if they have some spare toilet paper in their bag; or make excuses to leave the office and shuffle uncomfortably to the nearest shop to buy the provisions needed. It’s unimaginable, yet this is the reality for most women at work. Because unlike toilet paper, the bathrooms in most offices do not come with free period products as standard.
Whilst a period is a perfectly natural, healthy bodily function that almost every woman will experience, just like going to the toilet, women in the workplace aren’t being offered period products. They simply aren’t regarded in the same way that toilet roll is. So now it’s time to plug #thetoiletgap.
While male employees will enter a bathroom at work and find it fully catered for, allowing them to perform their natural bodily functions, it’s a completely different story for women who experience periods. And periods can and do (regularly) arrive unexpectedly, even when we’re at work – in fact, 86% of women have started their periods without having any sanitary products to hand.
The truth is, we have to prepare in advance or risk being caught short and faced with the consequences, whether it’s missing an important meeting to run to the shop, ducking out of the office to get some supplies or feeling uncomfortable and enduring an embarrassing mishap. It’s a gender imbalance, and it simply isn’t good enough. Businesses should care about this, because ultimately the consequences can lead to lost productivity.
We know that women are (still) fighting to be equal in the workplace, and there’s a risk that raising this issue might feel like we’re putting a spotlight on the fact that we’re different. As author and journalist, Emma Barnett, points out in her book Period: “Women fear being seen as weak in the workplace, so say nothing about menstruation and any issues they might be having, tacitly reinforcing a view that we are less capable during our time of the month.”
It’s time to address this. Remember: being different doesn’t make us inferior. Being different is what diversity is all about, and when it comes to the workplace, it is diverse teams that perform better.
The solution to this problem is clear: all employers should provide women with period products in the workplace as part of their diversity strategy. There is also an opportunity for businesses to make it part of their sustainability strategy – supplying plastic-free products is an opportunity for businesses to take powerful plastic free action as well as making a gender diversity statement.
In 2019, despite the world’s attention being firmly on the war on plastic, period products are still flying under the radar. Women use an estimated 11,000 period products over the 450 periods they’re likely to have in a lifetime. Most of these products use single-use plastic, which takes hundreds of years to break down. This raises a critical point that a natural human function should not be adding fuel to the fire of our plastic crisis.
There is an opportunity here for businesses to become instrumental in the switch to plastic-free periods. Together, let’s push for employers to address the imbalance in a way that also reduces the unnecessary impact periods have on the planet. Let’s embark on a sustainable mindset for period products that means workplaces consider the natural needs of women.
In short: we’re women, we menstruate, and we’re part of the workplace. So let’s flex our choices.
How to persuade your company to offer free sanitary products in its bathrooms
The solution starts with speaking up and championing this cause. Let’s make firm business cases to our employers. Become the champion at work fighting to plug #thetoiletgap.
- Ever been caught short? Missed a meeting because you’ve had to dash out? Join in the conversation and share your stories with us on social media as we endeavour to stop #thetoiletgap.
- Speak to other women at work to gain support and present your case to the decision makers.
- If your employer has a budget for green initiatives or for encouraging diversity in the workplace, campaign to have plastic free period products in the workplace toilets and explain why budget should be allocated – ultimately, it should come out of the same budget that toilet roll does.
- Pop some period products in the toilets yourself as a trial and see how welcome they are. Ask employees to leave comments so you can present this to your employer to show the demand.
Nancy Saddington is the co-founder of Mondays, a plastic free range of period products
Images: Getty, Unsplash