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Why do we distinguish FemTech products from other tech products?

Haven’t we all heard questions about how to refer to FemTech products? For instance:

  • Aren’t those tech products like all the others?
  • Doesn't distinguishing these products by name make it more difficult for founders to raise funds and find customers?

Or our favorite:

  • Why aren’t there MenTech products?

Fortunately, such questions are being forgotten and FemTech is quickly becoming a massive part of the tech industry with a lot more press coverage and seven-figure investments.

The FemTech market is set to be worth $50 billion by 2025 [1]

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The projections for the FemTech market are very optimistic. Even so, it is quite a small part of the market when “women already are spending more than $200B a year on FemTech products” [2].

FemTech was first discussed when in 2016 Ida Tin, the co-founder of the menstrual tracking app Clue used the term for the first time on a panel discussion devoted to female health at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

Interestingly, three years later, a dozen or so panels on women's health and its various aspects were organized at SXSW in Austin, which shows both the growing need to talk about women's health, the challenges, and the solutions in this area.

Historically, women have always gotten the short end of the stick in terms of healthcare. For decades, healthcare products were designed without much attention to physiological differences between men and women. The long uphill battle for women’s rights has been spread over decades, and has come in waves.

Do we need the FemTech term? What about MenTech?

Group (8)Nowadays, with the rise of FemTech, women are no longer simply making do with what’s available - they have taken business into their own hands and are using technology to bring improvement, women for women.

When women make up 50% of the population, why do we need to talk loudly about women’s health challenges and solutions? Consider what Olivia Goldhill somewhat controversially wrote in her article for Quartz titled “‘FemTech’ is not and should not be a thing”:

Though the term ‘FemTech’ may have served the valiant role of protecting some men from talking about periods, taking a narrow group of products and labeling them ‘female’ has unfortunate consequences. This designation effectively implies that half the population is a sub-niche market with a series of body-specific needs. Where, after all, is the talk of ‘MenTech’? There isn’t any. All the ‘male technology,’ such as voice-recognition technology that recognizes male voices better than female, or phones that are too big for women’s hands and don’t fit in pockets designed for women, aren’t designated ‘MenTech.’ They’re just the norm[3].

Goldhill goes on to mention 1949, when Simone de Beauvoir's book "The Second Sex" was published, in which the philosopher describes a world in which men are regarded as the norm and women as the "other". It is enough to note that the male pronoun is still used as a gender-neutral placeholder, and many categories such as genres of books are either neutral or feminine literature.

As it turns out, in 2019, 70 years later after the publication of de Beauvoir’s book, the stigmatization of the "weaker" or "other" gender is still alive, so that giving a distinctive category such as FemTech does not surprise anyone, and even seems necessary, while MenTech does not exist and the term GenderTech is becoming more and more popular.

Seven decades have passed since Simone de Beauvoir wrote about the need for equality and feminism, and women in the healthcare industry are still under-represented. About 65% of healthcare employees are women, but they make up only 33% of senior executives and 13% of CEOs” [4]. Due to such huge disproportions and the dominance of men, decision-makers, procedures, devices and treatment, have so far been dominated by a "neutral" approach, that is, by a standard approach aimed at men.

Because FemTech is a small part of the entire digital health and technology industry and the term is not yet widely used, it is difficult for women to get started in it. As Aagya Mathur said: “Whenever I search ‘FemTech [fill in the blank]’, Google suggests, ‘Did you mean: edtech [fill in the blank]’. That’s a concise illustration of the ‘difficulty’ - even Google doesn’t recognize FemTech as a category”.

90% of women are the primary healthcare decision makers

Group (9)This is a cliché, but female physiology differs from male physiology and because of gender differences, women and men are more likely to develop different diseases. Equality should be about access and treatment, but it should not pretend that we are all built the same. FemTech startups are taking on a wide range of issues and conditions that disproportionately affect women including osteoporosis, breast cancer, autoimmune conditions, stroke, thyroid issues, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and depression. [5]

Interestingly, when services are "neutral" and targeted mainly at men, according to Frost & Sullivan, 90% of women are the primary healthcare decision makers for their households and are also responsible for 80% of family healthcare spending. Women over age 19 also spend more per capita on healthcare than men [6]. This means that health tech startups should, however, target their offices and services with greater care to women.

 

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Investments in FemTech are, without a doubt, increasing. Only 5 years ago, barely $100 million in funding went to startups focused on women's health. By 2025, FemTech is expected to reach $50 billion. According to a HITLAB report, in 2019 alone, FemTech companies have raised at least $241 million in venture capital funding. Projections put this year at a total of $1 billion in funding, far surpassing the 2018 record of $650 million [7].

Such development is strongly influenced by education but still a break with taboos concerning women, such as menstruation, breast tissue support, menopause, fertility, sexual health. This only drives the needs of women, and therefore startup developers, to create products and services that respond to customer needs.

Tech companies with women achieve 35% higher ROI than those led by men

Group (10)As far as financing is concerned, the low level of support for FemTech, especially at the beginning, may be due to the fact that women are underrepresented not only in the healthcare industry, but by VCs too. According to the Kauffman Foundation, private tech companies with women at the helm achieve 35% higher ROI than those led by men, but in 2018, companies with all women founders received only 2.2% of VC funding. And the gender breakdown in the VC world itself may be to blame: "Women make up only 9% of venture capitalists working with startups. Finally, only about 4% of funding for healthcare research and development is invested in women’s health globally [8]."

This confirms Lexology's Emily Gilmore’s statements that most venture capital firms are run mostly by men, and few are able to talk about women's health because of the prevailing taboo, making it harder for them to ask questions about products, technology and funding for FemTech solutions they don't understand [9].

Why we created "The State of FemTech"?

Who’s behind this publication?

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This publication was authored at Untitled Kingdom, a product and software development company focused on digital health, FemTech and IoT.

We support FemTech because our mission is to create world-changing products that make a difference and improve people’s comfort in life. This mission did not appear suddenly or by mistake - it was well-planned and has evolved over our 12 years of experience.

Working in the challenging field of FemTech has developed us not only as product and software experts but also as people. We are now much more open to talking about women’s health issues, our empathy is deeper, and we strongly believe that everybody deserves equal treatment, access to equipment and services, jobs, and funding, regardless of gender, color, orientation or religion.

Download complete "The State of FemTech" ebook 

This was a part from Untitled Kingdom’s "The State of FemTech" publication.

The ebook was created by women for women who face challenges in FemTech. We try to show the viewpoint of practitioners creating products for over 12 years, mainly in digital health and FemTech. You can download it here.

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We hope to see a world where nobody asks if women are good founders, developers or a good target group to create tech products for.

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[1] Femtech—Time for a Digital Revolution in the Women’s Health Market, https://ww2.frost.com/frost-perspectives/femtechtime-digital-revolution-womens-health-market/ (December 18, 2019).

[2] Mimi Billing, The queen of femtech’s five favourite startups, https://sifted.eu/articles/clue-founders-five-favourite-startups/ (December 18, 2019).

[3] Olivia Goldhill, “FemTech” is not and should not be a thing, https://qz.com/1586815/why-femtech-is-a-sexist-category/ (December 18, 2019).

[4] Femtech by the Numbers: The Rise of Innovation in Women's Health Technology, https://www.hitlab.org/blog/femtech-by-the-numbers (December 18, 2019).

[5] Ibidem.

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Ibidem.

[8] Ibidem.

[9] Gene Marks, 'Femtech' startups on the rise as investors scent profits in women's health, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jun/06/femtech-startups-womens-health-investors (December 18, 2019).

 
Klaudia Raczek

By

"The State of FemTech" ebook co-author. FemTech enthusiast, copywriting, content marketing, strategy pro. Culture geek, addicted to learning new things and self-development. Bad jokes therapists and a French leave enthusiast. A creative mind that no one has ever managed to control.