This post first appeared on my LinkedIn.
Full disclosure: this post is about menstrual periods. Wait! Don’t go! I promise not to get explicit. What? You’re someone who doesn’t get a period and think this doesn’t pertain to you? Hear me out, hear me out.
Truth: people with ovaries and uteruses are usually gifted monthly with a peculiar condition whereby there occurs an uncontrollable loss of conspicuous fluids for about a week, sometimes longer which, if not impeded with protective products, can lead to messy and embarrassing situations.
Still with me?
The people who experience this condition (for the rest of the piece, I’m going to refer to women only, though acknowledge that there are other people who experience periods too) are at a certain inconvenience should they find themselves without period products on hand when the situation arises while at work.
For those who don’t know, women sometimes can tell when they’re going to get their period, but often, it’s kind of a surprise. Not the good kind of surprise like when you find a 5 dollar bill in your pocket. More like reaching into your pocket and finding an open packet of ketchup.
Women often have natural competencies that are valuable and advantageous in the workplace, such as empathy, attention to detail, being organized and collaborative. However, having to deal with your period while at work is something I’d definitely put in the disadvantage column. And it’s not something that most humans who identify as men have to deal with. In this way, it’s unfair and inequitable.
But what can we do? It’s a natural biological function that can’t really be helped (without medical intervention), so women should just deal with it, right? Well I’m here to tell you that you can, in fact, do something about this to help.
Recently, I started a new job at TELUS Digital. So far, it’s been grand. One of our core principles is having the Courage to Innovate. We’re encouraged and supported to try things out. So I did. With the help of my colleague, Kitty, we put quarters for the period product dispenser in Toronto and pads and tampons in the bathrooms in Vancouver (They don’t have dispensers…yet. Keep reading.). Alongside, we put signs that read:
Because when you get your period at work, not having a tampon or pad is like getting kicked when you’re already down. Please help yourself.
Courtesy of The Workflow Project
And then we waited, listened, and watched. In Toronto, the $20 worth of quarters did not go missing. In Vancouver, 1 or 2 of the products have been taken. A conversation was heard the other day that went, “Do you know who put that stuff in the washroom?” “No, but it’s cool!”
The other day, I went to my first Diversity & Inclusion committee meeting and told the group what we’d done. I explained how it was about evening the playing field at work for women. After the meeting, the committee chair in Vancouver requested a period product dispenser for their restroom. About 30 minutes after I’d talked about our little initiative, the dispenser had arrived. In addition, budget has been requested to make period products free in both offices. I love it when a plan comes together.
If you are someone who can help make period products available for free in your workplace, please do. It’ll save your employees having to stop working to run out to the store to get supplies. It will also save them the stress of finding themselves unprepared. It is a small, inexpensive but important gesture you can make to tell your ovarian employees that you care.
There. That wasn’t so bad, was it?