Critics point to the potentially negative implications of menstrual leave policies, such as "perpetuating sexist beliefs and attitudes, contributing to menstrual stigma and perpetuating gender stereotypes."
"It is common knowledge that when women are suffering from menstruation ... it is always better to allow your female employees once in a while to avail of this leave than suffer their mood swings, which might also affect the productivity of others," says Juan Dominguez, CEO of The Dominguez Firm based in Los Angeles, in an email interview.
Although predicated on, and perpetuating, the problematic, age-old and, many would say, blatantly sexist stereotype that women turn moody and difficult to work with when menstruating, Dominguez's remarks encapsulate the masculine stereotype that helps to fuel the debate.
"Menstrual leave is a current hot topic in my company," says Alex Smith, the CEO and recruiting manager of e-commerce company Luckybobbleheads, in an email interview. "We are in the process of deciding whether to give our female employees a menstrual leave or not."
Smith worries that menstrual leave "will almost certainly mean that women face more obstacles because employers will be even less likely to hire them."
The issue, Smith says, lies in distinguishing menstruation pain from other sources of discomfort, like migraines.
"[Menstrual leave] unnecessarily associates menstrual pain with womanhood and paints all periods with the same brush when, in reality, only a small percentage of menstruating people experience such severe cramps," says Smith. "These women deserve to be cared for and supported, and their pain should not be underestimated — but this is not the norm for menstruation. This 'othering' of women and focus on gender reinforces the prevalent idea that women are delicate flowers who are fragile, incapable and incompetent. It will also reinforce the idea that menstruation fundamentally alters a woman's personality and transforms her into a grumpy monster."
For those already offering menstrual leave, including Cicinia, the results have been even better than expected.
"Menstrual leave built transparency in our workplace and made our employees more confident," Chen says. "Employee retention increased. It actually helps in recruiting women."