Language is an important part of building a company where everybody feels welcome and included. It costs us nothing to incorporate inclusive terms into our daily lives, but goes so far in showing care, understanding and empathy for the diverse experiences of our colleagues.
This is nowhere more true than when it comes to menstrual, sexual and reproductive health, where you'll find that the language we use - often unintentionally - contributes to negative attitudes and misconceptions.
What follows is a short-guide to inclusive language around menstruation in the workplace. There is so much more to say and do on this topic, so get in touch about our bespoke workplace programs if you'd like to know more.
Marketing and industry terms have propagated negative attitudes towards menstruation for decades. For example, words with negative connotations like 'sanitary' or 'hygiene' are commonly used. Rather than position menstruation as a crucial part of health and wellbeing, these words suggest that menstruation is inherently ‘unsanitary’ - an experience that can only be made ‘hygienic’ through the use of certain products.
While the products we use can enhance our comfort, they in no way 'sanitise' an inherently unhygienic experience. Therefore, we want to use words and phrases that highlight menstruation as being a natural and healthy part of life.
Instead of using phrases like:
- Feminine hygiene
- Sanitary products
- Sanitary napkins
Try replacing them with:
- Menstrual care
- Period care products
- Menstrual health products
Not all cisgender women (assigned female at birth) have periods. This could be for a number of reasons, including stress, menopause, illness or a hysterectomy.
There are also people who menstruate who aren’t cisgender women. This can include trans men or non-binary people.
It's important that we use gender-neutral language to be truly inclusive. Rather than using terms such as:
- Female staff
- Women (when used in isolation)
Try replacing these with:
- Women and people with cycles
- People who menstruate
- Or where possible, use phrases like: "we provide period products for anyone who needs them."
Other Key Steps for Employers:
For employers wanting to implement inclusive language around menstruation, here are some steps we recommend you follow:
- Choose Diverse Ambassadors: Choose ambassadors who have diverse experiences of menstruation. Engage them early in discussions, ensuring that you take an intersectional approach to menstrual equity.
- Create an Inclusive Language Guide: Build an inclusive language guide around periods and hormonal health. Circulate it somewhere easily accessible and invite people to share questions privately with a designated leader. This makes it easier to consolidate questions and also avoids potentially harmful comments arising before training has begun. Then circulate a comprehensive FAQ that addresses all questions and feedback, alongside relevant resources to support self-guided learning.
- Internal Materials: Signage, such as bathrooms materials, should reflect inclusive language. For example, promoting the provision of period products could read 'Free Period Products for Anyone Who Needs Them,' rather than 'Free Sanitary Products for Female Staff.'
- External Materials: Talk about your menstrual and hormonal care benefits in job descriptions and external company materials, making sure to use inclusive language to attract the very best talent.
- Key Calendar Dates: Menstrual Health Day (May 28), PCOS Awareness Month (September), Endometriosis Awareness Month (March) are examples of dates that should be included in your company calendar to demonstrate your commitment to promoting menstrual equity. Learn more about our PCOS Awareness Month activities here.
Through our pioneering menstrual equity programs, LUÜNA has earned the trust of companies, schools and universities across Asia and the world. Find out more about our programs here and get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org