Lisa Higgins of The Red Rebel Collective On How To Create More Inclusive Workplaces

An Interview With Rachel Kline

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine

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Regularly seek feedback

To continually improve inclusivity, we ask employees to anonymously share their thoughts and concerns related to menstrual health. Through this, we received valuable insights, including suggestions for additional accommodations and resources. Acting on this feedback, we once helped a company introduce a reimbursement program for menstrual products, which was well-received and further demonstrated their commitment to inclusivity.

Creating inclusive workplaces is crucial for any organization that wants to get the most out of its talent. This means creating an environment where everyone feels like they belong, has equal opportunities, is empowered to do their best work, and feels comfortable making requests and contributing ideas. In this series, we asked prominent HR and business leaders about the steps they take to create more inclusive workplaces. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Higgins.

With her profound understanding of the menstrual cycle, Lisa Higgins has emerged as a leading advocate for menstrual health. Through her innovative consulting and educational initiatives, Lisa is changing the way women — and workplaces — view menstrual health conditions. Her company The Red Rebel Collective offers practical guidance and training for employers to address menstrual health in the workplace.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Before we drive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Sure! I began working in menstrual health after being forced to prioritise my own menstrual cycle in due to suffering with severe PMS, or PMDD (Pre Menstrual Dsyphoric Disorder) for the best part of a decade. My experience was a lonely one and my place of work had no support or resources available regarding women’s health. Menstrual health was very much a taboo. It was when I discovered a natural, holistic method called Menstrual Cycle Awareness that everything changed for me. Not only did I heal my own severe symptoms, I gained an entirely new approach to life which helped me to maintain balance and wellbeing throughout my cyclical monthly experience. Retraining as a period coach via the Red School mentored directly by Menstruality pioneer Alexandra Pope, I began coaching women with their own cycles and formed my business The Red Rebel Collective which helps workplaces to understand menstrual health and establish work culture that prioritises the wellbeing of all employees, regardless of their gender.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was teaching a training workshop once and just as members of staff of a particular company were logging on to use Zoom, one male had their camera sound on and was overheard saying, “Ugh, we’ve got to sit around moaning about periods now, I need a beer.” before realising he had broadcast his thoughts to the whole team. I learned then to change my settings so that everyone is muted upon arrival! But really, although it was a light moment, there is obviously a dark undertone and it only reaffirmed my mission to break the stigma over menstrual health. This work is deep — it’s about unravelling the layers upon layers of conditioning amongst our societies from over hundreds of years.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My mentors Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer — they are true pioneers of menstrual health and their book Wild Power changed everything for me. It was the first time I felt properly witnessed in my challenging experience. Their training is so personal — you don’t just learn the ropes; you go on a deep inquiry into your own life too. Every time I have faced setbacks or questioned my role, I connect with them and am reminded of how powerful and necessary this work is.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The longest journey you will ever make is from your head to your heart.” Our society has focused so much on improving our minds when really, our heart space is where we must focus to create a more harmonious, inclusive world. This is one that I keep having to go back to time and again throughout my life because it is so easy to get caught up in ego and inner criticism. The heart doesn’t care for such things, it just leads with love.

Thinking back on your own career, what would you tell your younger self?

To enjoy the process and not always obsess about the end goal. It’s harder than you think to be an entrepreneur so strap yourself in. There are going to be huge ups and downs, but it will all be worth it. You will have a wild time, you will be frustrated as all hell, but keep going because soon you will be in the right place — oh and you’re going to be a revolutionary!

Let’s now move to the central part of our interview. What systems do you have to ensure your workplace is as inclusive as possible?

I make sure HR teams and managers are equipped with the necessary knowledge and confidence to support colleagues and ensure company-wide best practice with menstrual health. I run accessible webinars to train staff, raise awareness, find solutions and support colleagues who may be experiencing menstrual health challenges. I encourage workplaces to adopt menstrual leave policies offering leave plus flexible working arrangements for menstruating individuals. And I facilitate women’s networks that provides people with a safe space to share, take ownership and feel included in the menstrual health initiatives, connect with others, access support and find opportunities for career development.

Based on your experience and success, what are your top five tips for creating more inclusive workplaces?

1 . Start at the top

During my career I’ve witnessed the transformative power of inclusive leadership. This is about leading by example, discussing menstruation openly and supporting our initiatives. An inclusive approach sets the tone for the entire organisation, making it easier for employees to embrace and discuss menstrual health without fear of stigma or discrimination.

2. Encourage communication from all

Once a male employee approached me with concerns about discussing menstrual health in the workplace. He felt uncomfortable and thought it was not his place to be involved. We organised a workshop that encouraged open conversations about the topic and he shared his feelings. Through dialogue and education, we were able to address his concerns and help him understand the importance of inclusivity in menstrual health discussions. This experience taught me that open communication is key to breaking down barriers.

3. Flexibility, always

Many women and people AFAB have severe menstrual symptoms that often impact their work. Adopting a flexible work policy allows these individuals to adjust their schedules during challenging days. I have seen countless people greatly appreciate this accommodation, as it reduces stress and improves productivity.

4. Education and training

I often run menstrual health awareness workshops for all employees, including management. I remember one manager once shared her own experience of managing menstrual health challenges while climbing the corporate ladder. Her personal story resonated with many employees, fostering empathy and understanding. This illustrates that education and training can break down stereotypes and create a more empathetic workplace.

5. Regularly seek feedback

To continually improve inclusivity, we ask employees to anonymously share their thoughts and concerns related to menstrual health. Through this, we received valuable insights, including suggestions for additional accommodations and resources. Acting on this feedback, we once helped a company introduce a reimbursement program for menstrual products, which was well-received and further demonstrated their commitment to inclusivity.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen businesses make while trying to become more inclusive? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Tokenistic efforts such as conducting a one-off menstrual health workshops without looking into wider workplace culture or policy. Instead, make menstrual health awareness part of the organisation’s ongoing DEI initiatives via long term strategies.

I sometimes see menstrual health awareness efforts that feel like PR exercises — they don’t truly value employee’s experiences. Really, it’s about fostering a culture where discussions about menstrual health are genuine and ongoing. One way to ensure this is by involving employees from diverse backgrounds from the very start.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your DEI efforts?

Surveys are effective to gauge all employees awareness of menstrual health conditions and how much the training has educated and/or supported them. We also review and assess workplace policies related to menstrual health such as flexible work arrangements, menstrual leave, access to menstrual products etc.

Are there other organizations you admire for their approach to DEI? Can you please explain why?

Zomato paved the way by introducing a paid period leave policy for all of their female and AFAB employees where they are allowed 1 day of paid menstrual leave per month, without the need for a doctor’s note. This is a fantastic leading example to show how much a company values their employees.

What do you do to address Proximity Bias? How do you ensure remote workers are treated the same as onsite workers and have equal access to opportunities?

By having open communication channels for all workers whether remote or onsite, granting all workers access to resources and opportunities. Making sure meeting times honour employees in all time zones and regular check-ins with remote staff keeps us all connected.

We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.

I would have said Dame Vivienne Westwood before she passed away last year — she encapsulated everything to do with rebelliousness and doing things your own way. But now, I really want to talk to writer and actress Michaela Coel she is incredible and I’ve followed her ever since the groundbreaking series she created, I May Destroy You.

How can our readers further follow your work?

www.theredrebelcollective.com/workplacetraining

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine

In-depth interviews with authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech