It gets difficult for working women to explain this inevitable and recurring physical and mental challenge, at the workplace.
Women across organisations commonly cite various silly excuses for taking a leave or two during their menstrual period. Male bosses are always left wondering why their women subordinates experience regular fevers or migraines or food poisoning, and what not! Although, deep inside, everyone knows that it is ‘that time of the month’ for a woman colleague, no one dares admit it. Menstruation in the workplace is like Lord Voldemort — the one who cannot be named!
However, one organisation has stepped up and taken a brilliant decision to support women employees, displaying sensitivity and sanity, and dismissing the taboo around the phenomenon. In an attempt to create a conducive work environment for all women employees, Culture Machine, a digital media company, has legitimised a First day of Periods leave policy. The company’s women employees can now avail of the leave on the first day of their menstrual cycle. There are around 75 women in the team and it accounts to 900 days of leave in a year.
This mindful decision is part of an endeavour to make the women staff feel appreciated and cared for. “In a society, such as India, where the ground reality of women empowerment is still a talk, we wanted to walk the talk,” says Venkat Prasad, co-founder, COO and CTO, Culture Machine.
In ancient Indian culture, the menstrual period was not so much of a taboo as it is now. Not going to the temples, restriction on cooking and menstrual seclusion — are all based on deep scientific logic, which over time got lost. What remained was superstition. According to Ayurveda, menstruation is a monthly cleansing opportunity women enjoy. It is also what provides women their feminism, beauty and longevity.
Since ages, especially in various regions across India, women have been going through the three-day confinement during their period. This time off during menstruation has a deep-rooted explanation in the ancient Indian culture. Since the menstrual period marks the beginning of a new fertile phase, it is believed that menstruating women should not be disturbed during that time; their natural cleansing and downward flow of energy should be allowed without external disturbances. This is because, it is during this resting phase that their bodies prepare for the next active, fertile phase.
Also, during the period, women undergo physical and mental discomfort, due to the natural flow of energies. Blood loss, cramps, indigestion and dizziness are some of the issues that commonly tag along with a period for most women every month. However, in the workplace, where there is immense focus on gender equality nowadays, it gets difficult for women to explain this inevitable recurring challenge.
Devleena Majumder, HR head, Culture Machine, says, “The first day of the period is not so comfortable for most women. I don’t think the pain can be taken away but we can try and make the work environment more conducive.” With that in mind, and in order to align the core organisational values to the kind of content the company creates, Culture Machine introduced the first day of periods leave policy. “It’s time we face the reality. This is not an embarrassment, this is part of life,” Majumder adds.
Something that most men across organisations will be able to relate to, Ruchir Joshi, head-content, Culture Machine, shares how a lot of men complain that women get to take a day off or work less on that particular day of the month. “The realisation that we need to have is that we don’t understand that pain, and we don’t go through it. If we were to experience that kind of discomfort, we would probably not even show up at work.”
Going beyond just implementing the change at Culture Machine, the women in the organisation have addressed a petition to Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women & Child Development, and Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, for all organisations to implement such a policy. The petition can be signed at: https://www.change.org/p/period-leave-fop-as-policy
Culture Machine has been at the forefront of propagating awareness around women through its women-oriented digital channel, Blush, which is all about celebrating womanhood. Hence, this policy is a step towards empowering women to be their prime selves. Keeping up with their natural biological cycle will help bring out greater creativity and productivity, and thus, help maximise the well-being of all employees.