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Should a woman's period affect her pay? One CEO makes the case

Working ladies, listen up: Your period may be stopping you from getting that raise and earning as much as your male colleagues.

Or so says a CEO in New Zealand.

Alasdair Thompson is the man-in-charge of the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern), a collective organization that promotes Kiwi businesses. During a radio interview on Thursday, where he was debating a new bill about equal pay, Mr. Thompson argued that women's productivity suffers because of their monthly menstrual cycle – and all the cramps, bloating and headaches that go with it.

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"Look at who takes the most sick leave," Mr. Thompson said. "Because you know, once a month they have sick problems. Not all women, but some do. They have children and they have to take leave off."

His comments have sparked international outrage, so much so that he is facing pressure to quit. Many women have expressed outraged and called the CEO's comments sexist. Even, New Zealand's Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson weighed in, calling it a "brain explosion."

Mr. Thompson has since apologized but is adamant that his comments were "sliced" and "diced" by the news media, taken out of context and made to seem much more sexist that they really are.

A New Zealand news station, 3 News, sat down with Mr. Thompson to let him clarify his comments.

But during the 22-minute segment, Mr. Thompson did not apologize for the content of his comments. He apologizes only for the offence it has caused, but overall he sticks to his guns in this video.

"Men and women are fortunately different," he said. "Women have babies. Women take leave when they have their babies."

He then contends that this makes it harder for women to return to the work force. (To be fair, many women would agree with this.) But what he doesn't do is suggest that maybe employers ought to adjust the ways in which an employee's productivity is measured. Is the number of sick days the only productivity marker out there?

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And while he notes that some men take a parental leave as well, he doesn't really explain why this leave doesn't affect their productivity as much as it does for a woman.

Then he offers this nugget: "Women take more sick leave in general. I know it's an awful thing to say but it's true."

When asked how he knows this, he says the woman who answers the phone and notes why people are taking sick days has told him that some women admit they are not coming to work because they are on their periods.

When pressed for numbers, he stumbles.

Fortunately, 3 News does the research for him: "This afternoon the State Services Commission released statistics that show on average, men in New Zealand take 6.8 sick days a year, while women take 8.4.

"But there is no evidence to suggest menstruation is the cause."

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The New Zealand's Public Service Association says that the sick day difference between the genders is negligible.

Should women have their pay penalized because of productive health issues? Should Mr. Thompson resign?

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About the Author

Madeleine White is an online editor and reporter for The Globe and Mail. More

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