It’s time to talk about periods.
After years of experiencing painful and irregular periods, being caught short in the workplace is an experience I and many others are all too familiar with. This frustration very quickly turned into ambitions to eradicate this statistic, to improve the availability of period products in the workplace and to tackle the stigma surrounding periods and menstruation.
I approached my Chambers Director in Autumn last year and presented my idea to introduce free period products into Chambers. After conducting research to see which provider aligned itself with Chambers values and prided themselves on sustainability, we started using TOTM – a company who use their platform to bust period taboos and get everybody talking about menstrual health and wellbeing. We placed a basket of assorted period products on each floor in Chambers. This was the first small step in the ladder to achieving a period positive workplace.
Overall, we have had a positive reaction from members. When you enter a workplace, you expect there to be toilet roll in the bathrooms so why is it too much to expect period products too? Having a period is a natural process and should not be treated with shame or animosity.
Although we have introduced period products into Chambers (which is a great first step), so much more needs to be done on an industry level. One of the fundamental issues is the stigma that surrounds periods. Claire Hutcheson (Birkbeck University) sums the problem of stigma up: “On the one hand women [and people who menstruate] are [deemed to be] lying about having menstrual health issues to get out of work, and on the other they are lying about not having menstrual health issues, to be at work.”
In 2020, DPG conducted a survey which concluded that 48% of workers across different organisations felt there was a noticeable stigma surrounding their period. This is something that we are striving to change in our chambers. By placing information cards on the baskets of free products we have re-assured employees that they can talk to Senior Clerks/ the Chambers Director about their period, opening the conversation.
This is the first step to achieving a period positive workplace. Introducing free period products in your chambers will help you create a more inclusive work environment.
Jessica is the Facilities and Admin Assistant at Old Square Chambers