For progressive workplaces, social enterprise Hey Girls has emerged as a pioneering force, leading the charge for period dignity schemes that embrace inclusivity across businesses. The multi-award-winning not-for-profit venture works with companies of all shapes and sizes across the UK, supplying high-quality and sustainable period products for employee bathrooms.
Talking to Workplace360, Hey Girls Contracts and Partnerships Manager Ailsa Colquhoun emphasises the impact of such schemes: “If you are serious about achieving equity in the workplace, offering staff period products is a great place to start. In addition, the broader benefits of period dignity programmes on operations are frequently overlooked by businesses.
“Anyone who has periods knows the difficulties when faced with not having a product to hand. It’s an uncomfortable experience no one should have to endure and can detract from the job at hand. Having tampons, pads etc, freely available takes away that fear and enables staff to perform at their best.”
This advocacy has garnered support from prominent companies like AXA, Nationwide and Network Rail. The Hey Girls model ensures a meaningful impact, as each
purchase is matched by a donation to a network of over 400 community partners UK-wide, including food banks, refuges, and homeless shelters. Since 2018, more than 38 million period products have been donated.
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With the likes of Lyreco, Commercial and Banner already onboard, Colquhoun is keen for the wider business supplies industry to get involved, helping smash the taboo surrounding periods and supporting customers in taking a crucial step towards diversity, equality and the wellbeing of every employee.
Hey Girls’ vision transcends mere product provisions, extending into education and dialogue tailored for dealers and wholesalers. Says Colquhoun: “I conduct sales training sessions and am happy to do male-centric ones if required. I find that once the conversation opens up, there are meta-moments where people wonder why they haven’t discussed periods before.
“If you’re a male salesperson speaking to a female client, she is going to think you’re amazing for being unafraid to discuss period care and/or period dignity. We’ve even had actor Michael Sheen, for example, championing our Pads 4 Dads kit and the campaign included the great line: ‘Let’s not leave dads out of the bloody conversation’. ”
The company’s commitment to inclusivity permeates every aspect of its business, employing gender-neutral language, ensuring advocacy for all individuals who have periods, and avoiding phrases like sanitary waste.
In tandem, Hey Girls’ efforts extend into the education sector – not only offering free advice and information on its website but essential items such as first period kits, education kits, flashcards and roll-up kits.
The education kit includes everything from period pads to cups, including reusables, making it a great tool for teachers and coaches. Meanwhile, the roll-up bags are made from recycled plastic and cork and offer a variety of sustainable, disposable products. “We always encourage schools to procure period items for barrier-free access in bathrooms, but if they cannot, the roll-up kits can be kept somewhere on the premises, with students requesting what they need,” states Colquhoun.
Never one to rest on its laurels, Hey Girls is currently working on educating specific vertical markets such as safety and healthcare. Colquhoun highlights the necessity for products, especially reusable period pants, in certain job roles – nurses, gas engineers, chefs, train drivers, etc – which will make those who have periods much more comfortable, as well as go some way in redressing gender inequality within these industries. Providing a range of period items, she emphasises, shouldn’t be seen just as a matter of convenience but as a fundamental right.