For many menstruators, having consistent access to period products at their workplace can be a challenge.
Google Workspace Marketing Customer Programs Lead, Meaghan Sullivan, knows this struggle firsthand. Going through college and hustling to get by living in New York City, the question of, “Am I going to spend money on this or that?” came up frequently.
Period products are not cheap, especially if you’re looking for pads and tampons that are high-quality and comfortable.
As she entered the workforce, Meaghan noticed right away that there weren’t always period products available in the office bathrooms, sharing that “in offices where women were not of the majority, providing and making period products accessible was not always top of mind.” If she were to get her period unexpectedly at work, she would feel as though she couldn’t leave. And she definitely felt like she couldn’t tell anyone if this issue arose since the stigma around period conversations is still deeply rooted in many work environments.
It wasn’t until she was immersed in the tech world that Meaghan noticed companies like Google offer free products in their bathrooms!
Supporting Menstruators at Work
Meaghan has proudly been a part of the menstrual movement for quite some time now and is both relieved and proud to see Google has period products, like Aunt Flow’s, available in both gendered and non-gendered bathrooms in New York – helping to ensure necessary period products are accessible to everyone who works there.
86% of women have started their period in public without the supplies they needed. When an organization has period products available, they are showing that they truly care about supporting menstruators. Meaghan no longer has to worry about the added stress of not having products readily accessible.
“It makes you feel like your company cares about you and impacts your well-being. You can show up at work proud to be yourself and proud to be here,” Meaghan commented.
Creating Conversations About Periods in the Workplace
Over the past few years at Google, Meaghan found herself searching to find a way to “bring the conversation about periods to the mainstream.” So, why not organize a period panel herself?
She is a member of an Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Google for women and allies. This ERG has panels all the time, focusing on topics that impact women, from finance to fertility. Meaghan had participated in various events held by this ERG and championed for menstrual education.
She started brainstorming ideas with her colleague Isha Mehrotra, a software engineer, advocate, and active ERG community member. The panel tiger team was rounded out by two additional Googlers (a term used for Google employees) and active ERG members, Stephanie Wajntraub and Cori Fernandez.
Overcoming Discomfort + Unfamiliarity
The first thing they discovered when starting to plan the event was there were a number of barriers at play when choosing the right name for the event. Meaghan and Isha initially wanted to include the term “menstrual equity” in the panel title, but with the help of their peers, they quickly realized that this would pose a barrier to those unfamiliar with the term, especially for non-menstruators.
To keep it fun and catchy while creating a judgment-free zone, the group settled on the event title, “Let’s Talk About Periods #NoShame.”
When talking with co-workers about their plans for this event, they both could tell some folks were uncomfortable. This made them even more confident in the importance of this panel and having these kinds of conversations.
Promoting Inclusive Conversations
The solution? They shared the Glossary for the Global Menstrual Movement as part of the event overview so people could see what this terminology actually means and build awareness.
The group began writing the questions for the panel, ensuring the terminology and questions they were asking were approachable to those who may have different experiences and may not be menstruators themselves.
“The more people we can get to be a part of the conversation, the more people can know about what is going on.”
Let’s Talk About Periods #NoShame
Meaghan, Isha, Cori & Stephanie were thrilled to host Google’s first-ever Menstrual Equity event, Let’s Talk About Periods, which took place on November 15, 2022. During the 90-minute session, three core topics were covered: period poverty, breaking the stigma and joining the movement.
A panel of experts in the field joined the session to provide some insights into their work on menstrual equity:
- Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, NYU Law’s Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network Executive Director
- Laura Strausfeld, Period Law Executive Director
- Alexis Deeb, Former Aunt Flow Education Sales Manager
- Ameer Abdul, Period National Campaign Manager
As part of the event, the group proudly was able to raise funds and organize a digital period product drive to help provide period products to menstruators across the country.
PERIOD served as the donation partner for this drive, ultimately donating the following amount of product to people most in need of such critical supplies:
- 746 maxi pads
- 40 liners
- 51 reusable pads
- 9 menstrual cups
Looking Toward the Future
With so many experts and essential topics to cover in the mental health space, Meaghan wants to organize additional events in the future.
Gathering support from people within various communities in the workplace and beyond and educating them on issues like menstrual equity can’t happen without open and honest conversations, which is why Meaghan proudly keeps Aunt Flow pads on her desk!
“I’d rather hold my tampon in my hand than in my back pocket. It seems so silly, but I used to think I needed to hide my tampon, but now I’m doing the opposite.”