Is Menstrual Leave Sexist? How Paid Absence For Periods Affects Workplace Dynamics

Olivia (name changed) is 38 years old and has a plush job at a multinational company in the bustling financial district of Manhattan, New York. A passionate business analyst, Olivia loves her job.

On one day of every month, however, she feels like skipping work — the first day of her period. “I feel like I am carrying a boulder on my abdomen as I sit at my desk and laboriously review financial statements while wincing in pain. All I want to do is take the day off and curl up in bed,” she confides.

ReadPeriod Tracking: How Menstruation And Fertility Apps Change Everything

Olivia’s sentiments are echoed by women in many countries across the globe where paid —or even unpaid — menstrual leaves are still a distant reality. 

Primary dysmenorrhoea —or period/ menstrual pain—affects approximately 40 – 70 percent of women of reproductive age around the world, according to a research paper published by ResearchGate, a social networking site for scientists and researchers. Despite the problems women face during the menstrual cycle, the issue is not being debated openly in public spaces. 

According to a 2013 study conducted across 1,072 females aged between 18-58 years in the United States, 57 percent women said they felt embarrassed when they got their period at their workplace, which makes it evident why women don’t want to fight for menstrual leaves. 

A simple Google search on paid menstrual leave in the country shows period leave policies in workplaces are to a large degree not usual, and obviously not mandated. But some organizations and countries are setting an example by offering paid menstrual leaves to the working women. 

As the debate rages over the issue, several issues have been offered both for and against the period leave policy. Several arguments offered against the policy are: 

  1. Loss to businesses: In an interview with Fast Company, the founder of Thinx (a U.S company that manufactures ‘period-proof underwear‘), Miki Agrawal said: “Women go through their cycle every single month. We are not going to be, like, you can work from home whenever. We are a company, we are building a business.” She also added women should not allow menstruation interfere with their productivity.
  2. Increases gender pay gap: In a Forbes article, finance writer Tim Worstall puts forth the arguments that giving extra paid days off to women as menstrual leave could increase the gender pay gap. He says as the companies have to bear the cost of…

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