Just when you think we’re making strides to reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation, we find out a third of men think it’s ‘unprofessional’ for women to talk about their period in the workplace.
Initial Washroom Hygiene surveyed 2000 office workers about all things toilet talk and the results offered some pretty sad proof that talking about periods is still very much taboo, particularly round the water cooler.
While almost half of the workforce will have to navigate having a period at work every month, it seems they have to do so in secret with the survey finding 32% of men think it is “unprofessional” for women to talk about the topic of menstruation while they’re at work.
And this stigma has clearly has a huge impact on the way women behave in the office during their time of the month with just under half of all women claiming they would feel uncomfortable speaking to their manager about period-related symptoms.
What’s more, more than half of women said they would be reluctant to call in sick to work due to period-related symptoms.
Proving that hiding a tampon up the sleeve is still very much a thing, a whopping 46% of those surveyed said they would feel uncomfortable taking sanitary products like pads and tampons out of their handbags in front of their colleagues.
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But this secrecy can have some serious knock-on effects on health with four out of 10 women claiming to have used sanitary products for longer than medically advised due to either not having a replacement product or not wanting to ask a colleague for one.
Reflecting on the results, marketing manager at Initial Washroom Hygiene Sian Walkling said: “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.
“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 continued.
“Normalising conversations about menstrual cycles and how they affect women is vital to achieving period dignity and a diverse workforce.”
As further proof there’s still a long way to go in terms of breaking down period taboos, recent research found that just under half of women are still using a code name when referring to their period.
The survey, by period product subscription service, Mondays, found women are turning to covert code names because many believe the term 'period' sounds dirty, rude, awkward and embarrassing.
But things are starting to change.
Following on from the news that free sanitary protection will now be provided to all patients in NHS hospitals, the Government has pledged to end period poverty around the world by 2030.
The pledge will see millions go to projects providing sanitary protection and will work to take down the stigma that still persists surrounding menstruation.
And this year has seen efforts made to address that, not only has Scotland offered free sanitary protection to women and girls living in period poverty, but there is now a period emoji.
The blood droplet is the result of a campaign led by girls’ rights group Plan International UK, which hopes the new symbol will help tackle period stigma.
In the meantime, we’d do well to remind ourselves that there is nothing shameful about having your period, and maybe it is time that our workplaces reflected that.