A must-read for every global businesswoman.
It’s time for me to bang my anti-menstrual leave drum again.
A company called Culture Machine, a media firm based in Mumbai with 75 employees, just introduced First Day of Period, an initiative that gives women the first day of their monthly cycles off. The program is aimed at making the workplace more women-friendly.
The company has also launched a petition urging India’s ministry of HR development and the ministry of women and child development to establish a similar policy. “We, the women at Culture Machine, have the privilege, if we may call it that, to apply for a leave on the day when the discomfort is unmanageable, no questions asked,” the petition says. “Now, we want the rest of the women in India to have the same right.” At last count, the petition had garnered some 25,000 signatures.
Other countries have considered measures like Culture Machine’s. In March, Italy’s parliament weighed giving women an official menstrual leave. An argument I made against that proposal is also relevant in this case:
That last point is—as it was in Italy—especially relevant in India, where the culture is so acutely patriarchal and rife with gender discrimination that a photographer’s project last month gained traction for honestly asking whether India cares more about cows or women. Sexual harassment against women is an epidemic in the real world and the virtual one.
Against that backdrop, menstrual leave could serve as an additional means for bias by discouraging businesses from hiring women; hire men who don’t need this time off instead. A mothers-only maternity leave benefit provides the same incentive, and it just so happens India passed such a measure earlier this year.
Certainly, a policy—or the mission behind it—shouldn’t be abandoned just because employers may abuse it. But in advocating for Culture Machine’s new leave initiative, Devleena S. Majumder, the company’s president of HR, identified what I see as another huge strike against a benefit that seeks accommodation for a trait generations of women have learned to live with. Period pain, she says, “is not an embarrassment. This is part of life.”
|Telling her side|
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|Iberia, a Spanish airline, is finally dropping a requirement that all female job candidates undergo a pregnancy test. It’s eliminating the step in the hiring process after being fined for discrimination. But up until now, the airline had argued that it ensured the safety of flight attendants since expectant mothers are advised against flying later in their pregnancies. Government and union officials, meanwhile, decried it as sexist.|
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|Fortune‘s Kristen Bellstrom weighs in on the U.S.’s visa denial of Afghanistan’s girls robotics team, arguing that the government’s rejection seems to contradict the Trump administration’s very public advocacy of women’s economic development abroad.|
|Real or just rhetoric?|
|Philanthropist Melinda Gates told a family planning summit in London yesterday that she’s “deeply troubled” by President Donald Trump’s decision to cut funding for family planning, which could jeopardize progress made on expanding services to women in some of the poorest parts of the world. “If empowering women is more than just rhetoric for the president, he will prove it by funding family planning,” she said.|
|The price is right|
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|A long time coming|
|Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor announced on Monday that HBO has optioned her acclaimed novel Who Fears Death, a post-apocalyptic tale set in a future Sudan, with George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame as an executive producer. “Note: This did not happen overnight,” wrote the first generation Nigerian American. “It’s been nearly 4 years coming.”|
|The chhaupadi curse continues|
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|New York Times|
|Employees of Cool Japan, a government-backed investor in businesses that promote Japanese culture, are accusing a senior executive of seeking dates and trips with women working there. The claims are especially notable since Cool Japan is the largest investor in the Japan-focused fund of 500 Startups, whose co-founder Dave McClure resigned earlier this month amid allegations of sexual harassment. At the same time, the accusations are not necessarily out of the ordinary: a government study found that 29% of women in Japan are harassed at work.|
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|New York Times|
|—Tennis star Venus Williams, 37, after reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals yesterday.|