The year was 1917
4.7 Million Americans left the workforce to fight in The Great War, giving women the opportunity they needed to show just how valuable they could be in the workforce. They did just that. By 1970, there were more than 30 million women in the workforce. By 2019 that number has ballooned north of 79 million or 47% of the United States' total workforce! 47%, yet women’s restrooms haven’t improved much since they first started entering the workforce. It’s about time we talk about why it’s important to provide menstrual products in the workplace, why it’s important to provide a sanitary way to dispose of them, and the best way to go about asking for a more period-friendly workplace.
One can imagine the feelings associated with being caught without the menstrual care products needed, and for many menstruators out there, it's a situation they're all too familiar with. A study conducted by Harris Interactive found that 79%, of the 1,072 women surveyed, said they have improvised by “MacGyvering” a tampon or pad out of toilet paper, or something else. Panic, embarrassment, frustration; a cocktail of negative emotions that can be easily prevented.
So, why would an employer provide free menstrual products? For starters, providing menstrual products helps create an inclusive workplace that feels more welcoming, and committed to employee wellbeing. It’s also been proven to improve productivity. According to Free the Tampons.org, 86% of women have started their period unexpectedly in public. Of those women, 62% reported going to a store immediately to buy menstrual products at least once. 34% reported going home at least in one instance when getting their period unexpectedly.
Providing menstrual items is important. Equally as important, is a safe sanitary way to dispose of menstrual items. The traditional method most facilities have in place, wax paper bags and toilet paper, actually contribute to the problem rather than help it. Toilet paper wasn’t designed to contain menstrual blood, so a lot is required. Wax paper bags are rigid which takes up space and often props up the bulky wad of toilet paper.
Like a cheap drink sent from the creepy guy across the bar, this method has been ineffective for as long as it’s been thrust upon women.
The toilet paper and wax paper bag approach often leads to unsafe restroom touchpoints, plumbing problems, and let’s just say less than ideal employee and custodial staff satisfaction.
Menstrual blood is blood. OSHA mandates that all bodily fluids be treated as if they are infected; however, the appropriate precautions are not always observed in restroom settings. In order to most effectively address potential exposure risks, menstrual items should be handled in a way that protects the hand during the removal and disposal of the menstrual item. That way, the hand, and the touchpoints of the restroom remain safe and sanitary. MaskIT’s patented disposal bags do just that and are helping facilities across the United States address this problem. In addition to addressing bloodborne pathogen exposure risk, MaskIT disposal bags are helping those facilities reduce plumbing problems, reduce toilet paper consumption, and improve the overall user experience.
Facilities that provide menstrual products for their employees not only get improved productivity; they are in a better place to attract, and retain, top talent. It’s no surprise that some of the best places to work share a common company culture of valuing employee wellbeing, a la Sephora, Adobe, and Target. Providing these items is a way of communicating that they are willing to invest in their employees.
So what’s the best way to advocate for menstrual care products in the workplace? The non-profit Free The Tampons breaks it down into three phases: asking, budgeting, and organizing logistics. In the asking phase, seek out the person who manages internal services from the Human Resource Department. They will typically know what other departments need to be involved; like facilities, operations, and finance. Once you have the right people’s attention, comes the most important part. Answer why you feel it’s important to provide menstrual care items; then support those feelings with facts. Follow that up with how it benefits them.
Once it’s clear that providing menstrual care products is the right thing to do and that there are several advantages for doing so, the next thing to iron out is the budgeting for said items. While there are far too many variables to have an accurate estimate of what it will cost, Free The Tampon says that it’ll cost between $5-$7 per menstruating employee per year to supply tampons and pads. Providing MaskIT will involve a one-time cost of $75 per restroom stall. On average most workplaces will spend about $32 per stall on an annual basis to provide MaskIT disposal bags. Companies often have special programs in place with allocated budgets, like sustainability groups, supplier diversity initiatives, women's leadership groups, and diversity and inclusion programs.
Next comes organizing the logistics of the rollout, and the servicing of the new menstrual care items. The general rule of thumb here is that whoever’s in charge of refilling the toilet paper and paper towels will be in charge of refilling and stocking the menstrual care items. Sourcing the menstrual care items couldn’t be easier. For the Tampons and Pads, Aunt Flow is a wonderful company that offers 100% organic cotton menstrual care products. For the disposal bags, MaskIT’s patented design offers the only touch-free experience available, making it the most effective solution on the market. It’s also made with plant-based biofilm in the United States. Both companies are certified Woman-Owned, and both work with non-profit organizations to give back and support local communities.
Menstrual care is important in the workplace and there has never been a better time to start advocating for menstrual care items in the workplace than right now. We are all in this together; and together, there is no challenge too big, no hurdle too high. When we come together we can create healthier, happier, lives at our workplaces and beyond.