#SWAAYthenarrative
BETA
Close

Women at Work: How Periods Affect Our Productivity

Health

While we'd hate ever to admit something like our monthly cycle can impact our ability to do our jobs, the truth is this is sometimes very much the case.


In general terms, the menstrual cycle is divided into various phases. Depending on the phase of the cycle, hormonal influences can have profound impact on daily influences in a woman's life.

“In relation to the work/productivity aspect of a woman's monthly, the best time or the most "feeling good time" for a woman during her cycle, would be during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle -- this begins on the initiation of your period and lasts approximately 10-14 days. Hormonally speaking, FSH ( or follicle stimulating hormone) is being secreted--which causes follicular stimulation to be created in the ovaries," says Dr. Kecia Gaither – double board-certified OBGYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine physician.

It's during this point in the cycle that women are energetic, minds are clear, and perhaps if there is some project that needs to be taken care of-- this is the time of the month to make it happen.

Now, let's discuss the luteal phase of the cycle...this is when the hormone progesterone begins to rise, causing the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for menses. “The progesterone also influences the production of another hormone, cortisol-- which can cause irritability. In the latter part of the cycle, women can experience mood swings, insomnia, breast tenderness, bloating, and decreased concentration.

This is also the point in the cycle where those salt/sugar cravings present themselves," says Dr. Gaither. In relation to work life balance - the latter part of a woman's cycle may not be the best time to undertake any project that requires substantial due diligence to bring it to fruition.

Now, if in the workplace there tends to be a majority of women in close proximity to each other- there can be a "menstrual synchrony". “Simply, women working together can have their cycles occur roughly at the same time each month. While the scientific data is inconclusive as to whether this really exists, anecdotally speaking, most women working together can attest to its existence," says Dr. Gaither.

So, if a big work related event is happening and everyone's input is needed, and it's predominantly women-- perhaps waiting until the latter half of everyone's cycle may be a prudent move.

Yes, women are affected by the changing hormone levels of our menstrual cycles, but different women are affected in different ways, so it's really not possible to say that a certain time of month is more or less productive. “For most women, these changes are subtle rather than dramatic. And most importantly, while an individual woman may be able to discern certain patterns about herself based on where she is in her cycle, those patterns tend to be individual rather than universal. I.e., high progesterone levels during your luteal phase may cause you to feel really down in the dumps, but for someone else, that same hormonal change causes her to feel relaxed and well-rested," says Lea von Bidder, co-founder of Ava - a cycle-tracking sensor bracelet that uses new technology to precisely detect a woman's fertile window in real time.

There isn't really strong evidence that women's cycles sync. One more thing to keep in mind: many women are on hormonal birth control, and NONE of this stuff holds true when that is the case. “You don't have a real cycle with hormonal birth control, meaning you would not experience any of the changes throughout the month that occur with a natural cycle," says von Bidder.

There are uncommon cases where periods affect productivity. “Some women experience extreme pain, discomfort, and other physical symptoms around their period. This is not very common, it's a disorder, and it can usually be resolved by taking hormonal birth control," says von Bidder.

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
4min read
Lifestyle

Going Makeupless To The Office May Be Costing You More Than Just Money

Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.


Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.

Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.

As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.

Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.

So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.

Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.

For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."