Addressing Innovation, Safety, and Menstrual Justice at Yale’s First PeriodCon

January 23, 2018

There’s a new conversation happening on Yale’s campus on February 9 around the business of menstruation. Called PeriodCon, the student-organized event is designed to open communication about access to menstrual products, reveal opportunities for product disruption and reduce the stigma around menstruation in public discourse.

“The private sector has the opportunity to think more progressively about ending the stigma,” says organizer Yennie Lee (SOM ’18), who has worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IDEO, a global design company. “Even from a design perspective,” says Lee, “this is an intellectually rigorous issue. The current solutions we have to manage periods are very medieval. The space is ripe for innovation.”

Product design is also part of a larger discussion around public health and the environment. Another event organizer, Nina Hatch, who is pursuing a dual Master’s in Environmental Management and Public Health, is focused on product safety and availability. “Under current regulation, tampons and pads do not have to go through any pre-market testing before they are put on the shelf, and the ingredients do not have to be disclosed on the box,” says Hatch. “I’m interested in what chemicals are actually in these products and whether or not they pose health risks to users. Furthermore, I’m interested in the waste associated with disposable pads and tampons, and companies that are creating reusable products such as menstrual cups and absorbent underwear.” She adds that accessibility is a critical factor—i.e., who can afford safer products—which is known as a “menstrual justice” issue.

The conference will address three main topics – equity and access, product innovation and the global community – and will feature emerging startups like ThinxDiva Cup and Flex, as well as leading speakers from academia, business and the nonprofit sector. The keynote speaker is Jennifer Weiss-Wolff, author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity.

“She’s a public champion for a lot of these issues,” Lee says of Weiss-Wolff, “and she’s worked with Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker on how to make these products available to prisons and schools.”

The event has a number of campus sponsors, including the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY), Yale Center for Customer InsightsYale Center for Business and the Environment and the Yale Graduate and Professional Student Senate.

The organizers, including Christine Chen (SOM ’18) and Hannah Stonebraker (SOM ’19), the WE@Yale Coordinator at Tsai CITY, hope PeriodCon will spark new conversations about what innovation means in this space and how business and society can work together to create positive movement.

Says Hatch: “I’m hoping that this conference will raise awareness of the issues surrounding menstruation and fight the ‘period taboo.’ I also hope it brings awareness to the lack of regulation of these products, and the need for transparency of ingredients to protect consumer health.”

PeriodCon will be held Feb. 9, 9:30am-4:30pm at Yale School of Management, 165 Whitney Ave., New Haven. Details and registration here.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Office, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, (203) 804-1911, brita.belli@yale.edu.

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Brita Belli