Q&A: Let's Talk About Menstruation with Sakshi Malhotra

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This week we’re in conversation with Sakshi Malhotra, Associate Director, Masai School. We talk about Period-Friendly workplaces.

The interview is edited for length and clarity.

Q- What do you feel is the importance of having period-friendly workplaces and having policies in place to make it more comfortable for people that menstruate?

Having policies and practices in place to make it more comfortable for people who menstruate is crucial for creating a more inclusive, equitable, and compassionate workplace. Menstruation is often stigmatized, especially in India, where it is not a law to provide material support to menstruating individuals. It is a stigma even at home that gets carried to workplaces.

I can say that having a period-friendly workplace is not only about fostering diversity but also about enhancing workplace productivity.

Creating Awareness

To make workplaces period-friendly, it is essential to create awareness among all employees, regardless of gender, about menstruation. Workshops and training sessions can be organized to educate people about what menstruation entails and its impact on those who menstruate.

Implementing Period-Friendly Policies

Organizations can implement various policies to support those who menstruate, such as providing menstrual leave without asking any questions. At Masai School, we have also introduced a no-questions-asked leave policy including the provision of 12 days of menstrual leave to all employees.

Creating a Safe Space

Organizations can provide a safe space for individuals who menstruate by ensuring that sanitary napkins are available in washrooms and making sure people are comfortable. At my organisation, we have a Slack channel for leaves, and women employees can communicate that they are menstruating and need time off. They don’t have to lie about the reason and have also created a safe space where individuals can talk openly without hesitation.

Sensitizing Male Employees

To create a more empathetic workplace, it is crucial to sensitise male employees about menstruation and its impact. Conducting workshops or training sessions can help educate male employees about menstruation and how to support their female colleagues during their menstrual cycle. Starting conversations is extremely important.

Q- How can workplaces become more empathetic towards people who menstruate and need time off?

As a starting point, it's crucial for management to understand the importance of menstrual leaves and the challenges that menstruating employees face. HR can act as the bridge between employees and management, advocating for policies that create a happier workplace.

One way to create a more supportive environment is to provide menstrual products in washrooms and offer a designated area for employees to rest and work in comfort. Companies can also offer flexible work arrangements, such as working from home, without questioning an employee's reason for needing time off.

Regular workshops and open conversations around menstrual health can help to break the taboo and create a more accepting culture. It all starts with one person speaking up and taking the initiative to start the conversation.

In my personal experience, having access to such policies has been a game-changer. The ability to take leave without explanation, reduce meetings on difficult days, and speak openly with the team has created a more supportive and comfortable work environment.

By taking small steps towards creating a more empathetic and sensitive workplace, companies can create a better place for all employees, especially those who menstruate.

I believe that it's time to address menstruation in the workplace. Despite many startups starting to address it, there is still a stigma around menstrual leave and the idea that women need extra accommodations just because they are menstruating. It doesn't align with our push for equality. We need to raise awareness about this issue in every workplace.

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