The menstrual cycle has long been a taboo subject in societies around the world. This has resulted in a widespread culture of menstruating staff (otherwise known as women) being afraid of the consequences of being open about their menstrual symptoms and needs in the workplace, in case of being deemed weaker or less employable than non-menstruating employees.
Bex Baxter was working as People Development Manager of Bristol-based Coexist - a social enterprise, based on a philosophy of open-hearted and active engagement - when she pioneered a more respectful and open approach to periods. Bex suffered with dysmenorrhea for over 25 years, and had been witness to menstruating staff suffering significant physical discomfort at work during their menstrual cycle. This led her to develop a Menstrual policy for Coexist.
She says, "I saw that menstrual leave is a basic human right for all menstruating staff, and that Coexist could pave a new way for menstruation in the workplace.”
Working with her colleagues and Lara Owen (leader at the forefront of menstruation and author of ‘Blood is Gold’), together they created a policy that could be monitored and evaluated by Monash University, Australia.
Bex says, “We have now piloted a policy that empowers the Coexist team (women and men alike), that harnesses greater productivity, creativity, and well-being, a policy that recognises menstruation not as a liability or a problem, or as women getting ‘special treatment,’ but as a natural cycle that allows everyone to work and live at their optimum, and in so doing, to model a contemporary way of leading within their community."
Her talk for TEDxBristol will challenge taboos around menstruation, and show how introducing a menstrual policy has provided a new permission field that allows women to let go of shame, and to instead honour their cycle. The results are inspiring. Menstruating staff at Coexist are now tracking their cycle, taking individual responsibility for their needs. Coexist as an organisation have responded by making adjustments to accommodate these needs.
"As a result we are finding women’s happiness and wellbeing has optimised, and their commitment and respect for the organisation increased. This research process has never been done in history and is proof of how Menstrual Policy can change everyone’s relationship to women in the workplace."
Bex Baxter, is also a singer, song-writer, and multi-instrumentalist.