We need period dignity across all building sites, argues Mark Bennett, co-chair of Willmott Dixon Interiors’ equality, diversity,and inclusion team
A few years ago, I was out having a coffee with my daughter, when she started her period for the first time. Finding somewhere to purchase the right products, and a clean, hygienic toilet, was quite a challenge. We finally found a nearby hotel, but the experience had a profound effect on me, not only as a father and a man, but also as a building manager working on a male-dominated construction site. This led me to question how women working on construction sites might feel.
Working on trade union Unite’s Period Dignity Campaign, I learned that a recent survey showed 32% of men think it is unprofessional for women to talk about their periods in the workplace. Yet many women, like my daughter, have been ‘caught short’ at some point; some 86% say they have started their periods without any period products to hand.
I firmly believe that talking about periods should not be taboo, and that period products should be freely available for all women. Last year, Willmott Dixon partnered with social enterprise Hey Girls to provide free period dignity items on all our sites. As part of this, for every box purchased, they donated a box to those suffering from “period poverty”. We also ran an online event called “Menstruation is not a Taboo” to raise awareness of the issue, a first for a construction company.
“Being the father to a young daughter, my eyes have been opened to these issues. And having open conversations around this is important”
We received positive feedback from women both inside and outside Willmott Dixon, with many calling it “ground-breaking”. But is it, in the 21st century? Talking about periods and providing period products should be the norm.
Being the father to a young daughter, my eyes have been opened to these issues. And having open conversations around this is important to change behaviours and ensure females are not ashamed about their periods.
I never thought a few years ago that I would see period products on sites, let alone know about pads, tampons – suitable for light, medium or heavy flow – and menstrual cups. If all companies and in particular construction sites could make period products freely available, it would avoid embarrassment for our female colleagues on site, as well as supporting gender diversity and inclusion.
Mark Bennett is a senior building manager and co-chair of the equality, diversity, and inclusion team at Willmott Dixon Interiors.