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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.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.