Ending a startup workplace taboo
Half of the population and workforce deals with hormonal bodies. Menstruation, menopause, breastfeeding, and childbirth make us endure some challenging ebbs and flows.
If you enter any startup office, chances are that you’re greeted by the office dog, get a walk through the kitchen to check out the free fruit basket, and see some smiling people at the foosball table.
Where are the free tampons? Hot water bottles? Nursing pads?
It’s about time that this new era of female and non-binary founders changes the paradigm and accommodates their workforce with hormonal bodies.
Practical advice from femtech founders
But how do you introduce a hormone-friendly culture? I talked to four trailblazing female founders in the Femtech space to get their advice.
Teneha Brown is the founder of VagiPlug. Her health startup is quite literal and develops a protective plug to prevent recurring vaginal infections and entrance of foreign substances into the vaginal canal. The New Orleans-based founder argues, “most people only want to talk about vaginas when they are of service, like reproduction. It’s okay to make some people uncomfortable.”
Dr. Ashley Florestal, Founder and CEO of Fertilitae. She’s a licensed naturopathic doctor focusing on women's fertility. The Canadian founder offers personalized fertility wellness plans and tools through her app. She believes that you can resolve trauma through connection. “When I connect two patients with miscarriage trauma, they find so much comfort by being understood.”
Andrea Olsson is the CMO and Co-Founder of Bumpy. Her Stockholm-based startup offers support to anyone navigating their fertility or facing infertility. “Most people are going through fertility struggles alone and in silence. It’s time to break the stigma,” says Andrea.
Anna Butterworth is the CEO of Vibease. The startup connects erotica audiobooks with vibrators for a whole body and mind experience. Anna is an integral part of a Femtech movement that aims to be more intersectional. She asks, “How can we make this industry inclusionary for those suffering from similar issues?”
The Phoenix Period Policy
Let me tell you a bit of a personal story. The ebbs and flows of my cycle affect me profoundly on a professional level. During my best times (ovulation phase), I’m social, extroverted, and striking. I feel like I can lift buildings and become president.
And during my worst times (luteal phase), I can be highly introverted and irritable. I curl up on the couch, suffering excruciating pain.
You can easily see how that translates to my work performance. There’s still so much shame and taboo about this topic that we must whisper and hide, so our bosses don’t think less of us.
I decided to do better when I became my own boss at the Phoenix Brand Consultancy. Not just for my mental and physical health but also for all the menstruating people I work with.
Not only do we plan our monthly tasks around our cycle, but we also have a period policy in place. Here’s how it works:
We put a blocker in our calendars for the first two days of our periods. That’s how we avoid in-person and virtual meetings with Calendly. If a workshop or call falls into this period, we reach out to our clients to reschedule. We offer them the same flexibility. “Let’s do the workshop the week after. I’m bleeding on Monday.” A perfectly normal conversation.