Periods at work: Conversations in the workplace that need to happen
A new survey reveals 85% of UK women feel stressed or anxious when managing their period at work.
Women menstruate at work. Period. It’s not new. It’s completely natural. However, many working women still feel embarrassed, stressed, and anxious when on their period in the office or working onsite.
It’s time to end the stigma around periods and have open conversations about menstruation, both in the UK and around the world.
Nearly two thirds of UK women feel embarrassed talking about their periods at work
Presenter and broadcaster Charlene White explains, "it’s almost ingrained within us to hide when we’re on our period to protect our colleagues, even though half the population experience them every month."
80% of UK women feel they are held back by attitudes to periods in the workplace
It’s not just here in the UK where women have to deal with outdated attitudes at work.
Globally, where women make up 40% of the workforce, women’s health and menstruation are often forgotten by businesses.
Nadongo Federesi, a technical supervisor in Uganda, says she doesn’t speak about periods because she is the only woman and worries it wouldn’t be taken seriously.
"Most women fear speaking about proper menstrual management at work, yet they are expected to work at full capacity. If a lady is not feeling well due to menstrual cramps or any other period related weakness, they should be given a break from work until she feels better."
Nearly half of UK women have hidden their period products en route to the toilet at work
A similar number, 46%, said they avoid light-coloured work outfits whilst on their period.
Ama Agbeze MBE, netball star and commentator, recalls, "at test matches, I’ve had to navigate getting to a bathroom whilst subtly carrying sanitary products with a crowd of thousands watching."
In Liberia, school principal Augusta explains how she would call in sick from work as a teacher when on her period, worried it would show.
On the first and second day of my periods, I would experience a heavy blood flow and cramps, so I couldn’t go to work. I preferred to tell school that I was sick and will stay away.
Now, as principal, she has started teaching menstrual hygiene awareness to erase taboos around menstruation in school.
With many young girls missing school during their period – up to 1 in 3 in South Asia – education about menstrual health is so important.
Only 3% of UK women believe employers are doing enough to support women who menstruate at work
Unsupportive management is a major cause of stress for women. The women we asked said that free period products, flexible working and additional breaks could help.
Dr. Roomana Sheraz, a dental surgeon and the only woman in her department in Thatta, Pakistan, recalls how difficult it was before her workplace built a women-friendly washroom.
Two years ago, Dr. Sheraz became a menstrual hygiene champion after completing training from WaterAid Pakistan.
Businesses and governments need to be bolder
We're calling for menstrual health and hygiene to be recognised by governments and businesses around the world so that no one, wherever they live work or go to school, is held back because of this natural process.
Gender equality simply cannot be achieved without prioritising the needs of women and girls – and access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene is critical.