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Talking About Periods in the Workplace with Kim Biddle, Co-Founder of Clutch Affiliate

Talking About Periods in the Workplace with Kim Biddle, Co-Founder of Clutch Affiliate

April 9, 2024

Interviewed by Meaghan Sullivan, Google Workspace Marketing Customer Programs Lead

👋 Meet Kim Biddle! Kim is the Co-Founder of Clutch Affiliate, a woman-owned marketing agency. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Kim’s career spans 20 years in the natural consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry with various roles in sales, marketing, strategic partnerships, along with building influencer and affiliate programs. Kim has two teens, three big dogs and is a former field hockey collegiate athlete. Human interest stories and biographies are her jam, and she loves a good true crime documentary. 

Let’s kick it off with one of our classic icebreakers. Can you tell us the story about your first period?

I so clearly remember I was away from home when I got my first period. At the time, I was at the house of my best friends in middle school who were fraternal twin sisters. They helped me find products when it happened. So it wasn’t necessarily traumatic, but it was a bit weird not to be with my mom at the time and have her support at that moment. There was also a little fear associated with it. Like, “Oh my gosh, whoa, that was kind of unexpected.” It also helped that my mom was a nurse, so there were lots of open conversations, and I was prepared for a lot of these things.

That actually bleeds really well into our next question which is how and when you were taught about menstruation. So it seems like it was just a conversation that was happening frequently growing up with a mom as a medical professional. Tell us a little bit more about that.

My mom had medical books all over the house. There were no cell phones back then and I wasn’t really allowed to watch much TV, so I would read those books because they had pictures in them of really gross stuff and I was so fascinated as a kid. I didn’t really understand the jargon or anything like that, but my mom made sure I understood what was going on with my body and how to track my [menstrual] cycle. 

Education is so important, so I think that is so refreshing that it was an open conversation between you and your mom.

I talk openly [about periods] with my daughter too and taught her how to track her cycle because no one wants to be surprised at school. Getting my period without supplies was probably one of my biggest fears in school because you saw in movies how somebody would get up from the chair and there would be a blood stain and everybody made a big deal out of it. So I definitely wanted to make sure I was prepared. Even before I started my period, I was wearing a panty liner just to make sure because I knew it was going to happen any day now and I didn’t want to be caught off guard because it’s embarrassing… at least that’s the way you were made to feel.

I feel like we broke the ice, and we’re ready to roll! Do you believe that periods should be discussed in the workplace? Why or why not?

Yes, I think that periods should be discussed in the workplace. We all have different experiences with our periods, and I think it’s good to be open and be able to have a safe conversation [about it]. I feel the same way about breastfeeding. There should be areas of comfort for those breastfeeding and for it to be an open conversation. Obviously, Aunt Flow has thought of this to make sure that period supplies are available in schools, and it’s so important. With breastfeeding and menstruation, there should always be supplies available and a space created where people feel safe and not shamed. 

You’re already talking about areas of comfort, which is such a great additive to this next question. How can organizations create a supportive and inclusive environment for employees to talk about menstruation at work?

I think you have to create a feeling of trust and a safe place for that to be an open conversation. You have to have an open dialogue about it. It can be something as simple as someone saying, “Hey, we’re a supportive community here, and we’ve got your back.” Who wouldn’t want to be in an environment like that where you’re supported in that way? I mean, that’s a company I’d like to work for that’s going to have an open dialogue about it and not be clutching their pearls and saying “No, we can’t talk about that!” I want to talk about stuff that matters and stuff that affects people in different ways.

Are there any specific policies or initiatives that you think are essential for addressing menstruation-related challenges at work?

I think this could relate back to PTO. People pick up on patterns, so if someone’s out once a month, then I think there’s some care that needs to be had with a conversation like that. It depends on what kind of relationship you have with your employee. I’ve had some bosses that I’ve been really close to, and then I’ve had others that I wouldn’t share personal things with. In terms of initiatives, having [period products] ready and making sure that they’re stocked is an important initiative to me. It shows that [the company] cares about the women in their workplace and wants to make sure that they’re feeling supported. Gosh, I’d even go as far as to say that there could be a room where someone could take their lunch break and just quietly use their heating pad. It’s all about making sure that if someone is in discomfort, there is a safe space provided.

I’ve never heard of this idea of a comfort room. I think that’s amazing. At Google, we’ve just begun having breastfeeding rooms, but I love the idea of having a room like that for your period. Can you share some examples of successful initiatives or practices from organizations just some of your experiences that have successfully addressed menstruation-related issues in the workplace?

With the exception of having a tampon and pad machine, no (laughs). 100% no. I’ve never worked for anybody that was addressing any of those concerns. And that’s my generation. So now it’s hopefully changing and is different, but I never saw any initiatives besides just having products available. Also, I’m a big fan of gender-neutral bathrooms. In my opinion, I think that all workplaces and establishments should have gender-neutral bathrooms.

What are some of the potential benefits that you think will happen for both employees and organizations when menstruation is openly discussed and supported in the workplace?

I just think it’s a whole different level of support. For me, when there’s [a sense of] openness like that, there’s a level of trust, support, belonging and equity. Equity is the really big word here. You’re being seen, and [the topic of menstruation] is not just something that’s locked away, and that goes for menopause, breastfeeding, IVF… all of the things that women can go through and do go through. [Periods] are a big part of it, because it does happen frequently. So [menstruation] is something that has to be recognized. I think that any workplace that’s going to have that conversation is ahead of their time and progressive, and I’d work there. Because, that means that other topics and issues are also being addressed that are really important. If they’re they’re willing to talk about [menstruation], then they’re going to be willing to talk about other things.

Absolutely. You attract the best talent when you’re the best place to work, and that’s everything from the technology that you use to the tools you have available. But it’s not just about the office perks, like free lunch, anymore. The standards are and should be higher, and I think that’s how you get the best people to work with you and for you. We’ve already talked about this next topic a little bit, but do you believe there’s a generational shift in attitudes towards discussing menstruation in the workplace and how can organizations adapt these changing perspectives?

100% I think there is, yes. I think that they need to adapt by looking at other companies and what they’re doing. [The shift in attitude] is changing on so many levels. It’s very easy to adapt, you just need to look around at some of the companies doing it and have that deeper level of commitment. 

We’ve talked about the fact that you have not experienced the level of support at work throughout your career that we all hope for, but are you comfortable sharing any personal, specific experiences related to menstruation in the workplace that highlight the need for open conversation?

There were definitely times when I wasn’t prepared, and I had to go ask somebody [for a period product] because there was nothing [offered] in the bathroom. I’ve worked in male-dominated industries, so never having anything available in the bathroom was an issue. So I had to feel a little uncomfortable to go ask somebody, “Hey, do you have any supplies?” Then it might not be the product you want. There were times when I was not prepared and feeling just dead in the water, thinking “What do I do?” That’s when you learn how to work with toilet paper as a last resort, and that’s not a confidence booster. When you don’t have access to products and have to use toilet paper, there’s really no confidence in that. 

So, what advice would you give to individuals who feel uncomfortable discussing their menstrual health or overall needs with their employers or colleagues?

I’m an envelope pusher. So I would just have the conversation and really open it up. I would say to be an advocate for what you want and the things you would like to see in the workplace. You really have to be your own advocate. You could talk with the other women in the office about it, and then bring it up to management and present your ideas. It’s really all about how you position it and open up that important conversation. 

What advice would you give to professionals or leaders looking to initiate a dialogue about menstruation in their organization?

I would say that they should handle it with care and thoughtfulness and they should be very thoughtful about their approach. So before they go out and talk to people in their workplace about it, I’d advise them to do some research and maybe look at other companies that are doing it. If they’re putting that initiative together, my advice would be to just really think of it as a checklist. 

Stay in the flow — we’ll send you period positivity + timely updates on the menstrual movement.

claire coder,founder + ceo

claire coder,
founder + ceo

Hi! I’m Claire. I founded Aunt Flow after getting my period in public without the supplies needed.

At 18 years old, I dedicated my life to developing a solution to ensure businesses and schools could sustainably provide quality period products, for free, in bathrooms. Our products are made with organic cotton and we are constantly working to reduce our environmental impact! Since 2021, we've donated over 6 MILLION period products to menstruators in need. I call this people helping people. PERIOD.®