Body of work

Menstrual Cycles at Work

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What is the impact of menstrual cycles on careers? 

The fourth session of The Body of Work was on the theme of ‘menstrual cycles'. We discussed each of the elements of this experience that are often made invisible in workplace practices.

We considered together, the impact of menstrual cycles on careers and day-to-day workplace practices. In discussions, we explored issues including period poverty, menstruation and endometriosis. We discussed interactions between workplace practice and identities and how we might (re)shape organising to be more inclusive of such experiences. We also considered physical and psychological perspectives on the topics and invite reflection on how experiences can be affected by intersecting elements of social positionality.

In this session, two academic speakers; Dr Lara Owen, and Dr Victoria Williams, will contribute forms of knowledge about how the experiences of menstruation and endometriosis have an impact on how we organise work and workplaces. Further, third-sector practitioners join us as panellists to share their experiences of agitating for change.

The fourth and final session came to an end with a workshop in the afternoon, dedicated to 'embodied collaborative writing,' and led by Dr Emmanouela Mandalaki. The session explored embodied writing as a collaborative process as well as the journey of writing and publishing embodied work as an early career academic. The workshop activities sought to evoke the dynamics necessary to facilitating embodied writing. It was structured with both discussion and practical engagement and an opportunity to engage in embodied writing together.

Watch the video

For each session in the series, we collaborated with a performance company to develop a video resource that can be used to illustrate the content of the research themes. These creative responses to each topic are aimed toward sparking discussion, debate, and the development of inclusive workplace practices. You may wish to show these videos, and use the additional resources we have collated, in your work workplace as a way of starting discussions around the issues depicted.

These are the 10 key learned lessons from this event that we would like to share with organizations.

  1. Menstruation affects people in different ways, and so it is important to provide personalized support. If expertise is not available in the organisations, managers can signpost external organisations (e.g. Endometriosis UK, Period Poverty and so on).
  2. Line managers and policymakers need to be trained to understand the impact that menstruation and some related illnesses can have on employees in the workplace.
  3. Both formal and informal work adjustments can greatly support employees in dealing with menstrual cycles: flexible working hours; changes to work patterns, working from home; leave entitlement; changes to uniforms; increased number of breaks.
  4. The provision of free sanitary products in gender-neutral toilets, or in all other toilets, can give a visible indication of the organizational commitment towards menstrual cycles.
  5. Although some conditions related to menstrual cycles, like Endometriosis, can be very painful, these can take years to be officially diagnosed. Flexible leave arrangements can be beneficial to staff.
  6. Endometriosis is one of the numerous bleeding disorders that can affect performance and peoples’ ability to carry out work, which can affect both men and women.
  7. Menopause and Andropause are often ridiculed or used within joking contexts in the workplace, but these stages of life can have a serious impact on people’s wellbeing.
  8. Education and awareness-raising are fundamental to avoid shame and the silencing of the body at work.
  9. Policies that offer protection to employees are useful, but these also need to provide flexible arrangements to cater for individual needs.
  10. Trust your employees! Creating a period-friendly workplace means acknowledging that work productivity varies for all staff overtime, and adjustments made to address menstrual cycles can allow staff the time to rest and take care of their bodies, before returning to work.


Dr Lara Owen

Research Fellow, University of St Andrews

Dr Lara Owen is a Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews, where she is doing research on how cultural ideas surrounding menstruation influence the use of sustainable menstrual products. Her PhD (Monash Business School) studied the uptake of the menstrual cup and the menstrual workplace policy from a feminist socioeconomic perspective. Lara has worked for universities, international institutions and the third sector as a consultant and researcher on menstruation, menopause, and women’s wellbeing and rights more broadly.

Victoria Williams

PhD student, Open University

Victoria is a PhD student researching the experience of endometriosis in the workplace and menstrual policy. Prior to her current research, Victoria studied at King’s College London and spent several years working as a Digital Account Director. Her challenges of living and working with endometriosis led her to become self-employed sharing talks, workshops and retreats, incorporating yoga and meditation, to support others with menstrual health conditions.

Dilly Meyer

Soroptimists International, Colchester

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