“If the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female,” says Bridget Brennan, Forbes. Is it any surprise then that femtech – healthtech aimed specifically at women – is the trend we should be backing in 2018? According to Brennan, “women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence. Influence means that even when a woman isn’t paying for something herself, she is often the influence or veto vote behind someone else’s purchase.”
Figures from KPMG say the femtech market is already worth big money – $55billion in 2015. It’s probably no shock that given the rise of technology within the healthcare sector, female health has seen a growth in innovative, intelligent products that are helping women transform the way they access and understand their health issues.
Over the last few years the way we all think about our health has changed. Monitoring our physical activity, heart rates, what we eat, has become the norm. Is it any wonder that women have seized the opportunity to track of our physical wellbeing with products that monitor periods, fertility, contraception and much more?
The femtech market has become increasingly sophisticated and products such as the Priya Ring highlight how the market has taken advantage of technology. Described as offering a ‘level of precision that no other ovulation prediction method can’, the ring device features a sensor that monitors temperature to detect changes that take place before ovulation, alerting the wearer when they are at their most fertile.
Advances in technology are at the heart of the femtech movement. The Ava fertility bracelet highlights this. Suitable for use by consumers and healthcare professionals, the device is designed to allow women to monitor periods, perhaps if they’re trying to conceive. Described as “an unprecedented method of tracking a woman’s cycle”, the bracelet collects physiological data while the user is sleeping, using this information to determine a fertile window.
The sector has also attracted a considerable amount of media attention. A year ago Forbes’ Jill Richmond outlined The New Year of Optimism for Femtech; VentureBeat looked at The Rise of Femtech, while recently TechCrunch discussed ‘Femtech from head to toe at Disrupt Berlin’.
Individual femtech products have also courted much attention. The Elvie Trainer, apparently much loved by A list celebrities, is a pelvic floor trainer “recommended by over 800 health and wellness professionals around the globe”.
Wareable magazine’s Jennifer Allen gave Elvie a try out. “The point behind Elvie and its app is that it teaches you to squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. You might be interested in these pelvic floor strengthening exercises, often referred to as Kegels, for a number of reasons… Essentially, like any other muscle, you need to use the correct form to get the most out of your workout. Otherwise, you’re liable to see no benefits or, worse, hurt yourself,” says Allen.
She says the app that accompanies the device “works like your friend spotting you at the gym – it lets you know when you’re doing something right and gives you some insight just before you screw up too much. You’re able to use it either by standing or lying down. I found lying down the much more comfortable option.”
Meanwhile the Fiera device has been designed to aid “intimacy with your partner and strengthen your emotional connection”. The product piqued the interest of the media with The San Francisco Chronicle picking up on its potential in an interview with the company’s Dr. Leah Millheiser, chief scientific officer.
It’s no coincidence that the femtech sector is largely driven by women. We continually hear about the under representation of women in tech and science jobs so it’s great to see positive role models such as Clue’s (the period tracking app) Ida Tin, Lea Von Bidder the brains behind the Ava fertility bracelet, and Tania Boler, co-founder of Chairo, the business behind the Elvie connected pelvic floor device.
Recent insight from Onalytica outlined the way in which the number of women in tech roles in decreasing with ratios getting as low as one woman to every four male engineers in tech companies such as Google. Last year WISE, the campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering in the UK looked at the number of women on FTSE 100 boards. It noted: “In this year’s list, there are only six companies across the FTSE 100 with only one woman on the board and 60% of companies now have more than two women on the board of directors. Within the STEM sector the number of companies reaching this milestone has increased significantly since 2015. However, the STEM sector still lags behind the non-STEM sector where 65% of companies have hit this benchmark.”
In the US, Rock Health’s The State of Women in Healthcare reports are worth reading. In 2015 Halle Tecco, covered an update on the report: “Despite making up more than half the healthcare workforce, women represent only 21% of board members at Fortune 500 healthcare companies. Of the 125 women who carry an executive title, only five serve in operating roles as COO or president. And there’s only one woman CEO of a Fortune 500 healthcare company.”
From this point of view, any new sector that has women at the heart along with female scientific and business leaders heading the industry is incredibly positive. Given the interest from its target audience and its female-centric approach to healthcare, the femtech sector offers huge amounts of potential, not only from a consumption point of view.
As materials and sensor technology advances the femtech sector is offering products that women can see will benefit their health and wellbeing.
And this is only the start of the femtech journey. As the market develops we are hearing reports that it could include connected devices that screen against illnesses such as cervical cancer and STDs. The Duke University in California, for example, has developed a pocket colposcope that connects to a smart device that could eventually mean women could self-screen for cervical cancer.
It’s an exciting sector and exciting to witness its growth from the beginning. 2018 will be the year of femtech, the year it becomes mainstream promoting both the health of women and the growth of the female entrepreneur.