We look at the exciting potential of technology being developed by women for women and how far it’s already come in a market projected to reach over $75 billion by 2025.
Femtech is a term to describe diagnostic tools, products, services, wearables and software which use technology to support women's health. It was first coined in 2016 by entrepreneur Ida Tin, founder of the period tracking app, Clue, who introduced the term during discussions with male investors - an app which is now used monthly by 11 million users in 190 different countries.
In 2013, when Clue was founded, the Femtech market was only worth $134 million however, by 2020 this number had grown to $40.2 billion. But it's not stopping there, Femtech is expected to grow 13.3% between 2020 to 2025, making it worth over $75 billion in the near future.
Femtech usually focuses on categories such as menstruation, birth control, menopause, pregnancy and sexual wellness. In 2021, 21% of Femtech focused on pregnancy and nursing with 271 companies, making it the biggest sector. The second biggest was contraception with 17% and 217 companies while the lowest was female mental health with 2% and 27 companies.
The massive gap between women’s health problems and the support or treatments available to solve them is what’s causing such innovation in Femtech. We can see that when exploring three Femtech companies launching in 2023/2024 and their reasons:
Period pain affects 80% of women and Artemis is a smart, hypoallergenic merino wool bodysuit which combats pain through heat and micro-vibrations. It’s linked to a software application which is controlled by an app on your phone. The app regulates the heat and micro-vibrations within the bodysuit with 10 levels of intensity for both and 5 different wave modules, so women can completely personalise the device. It was developed from co-founder Anna Zsofia Kormos lifelong, unbearable period pain.
Similarly, by 2030, the world population of menopausal and postmenopausal women is projected to increase to 1.2 billion and 83% of women said menopause affected their day-today lives. So, Thermaband has been developed by a mother-daughter duo in Florida - a smart cooling and warming bracelet as relief for women experiencing hot flushes. This company was also founded after personal experience when co-founder Debbie Dickinson couldn’t find solutions to her own hot flushes.
Lastly, in 2021, Statista recorded 2,866 still births in the UK which was 288 more than in the previous year. So, midwife of 20 years, Rachel Curran, developed Bitbaby - a wearable and with sensors that monitor an unborn baby’s movements and send them to your phone in real-time. She founded the company as a way to help bring down the number of preventable still births but also because many pregnant women were coming to her confused and worried about how to understand their baby’s movements.
All of these companies were founded on personal experience and recognising a big problem in women’s health that have very little support.
Women want to learn more about their bodies, they want more options which are less invasive and headline news has made categories such as reproductive health increase in demand. As women make up 80% of consumer health buying decisions, all of the above is translating into women connecting with Femtech - as consumers but also as innovators. In 2020, there were over 1000 new Femtech start-ups, nearly all of which were started by women.
“I think it's incredibly important that women turn their lived experiences into technology” said Markea Dickinson-Frasier, co-founder of Thermaband. “Currently, femtech only makes up a small portion of the total technological landscape, and several technologies designed for women were made by men. Women know best about their experiences, and these technological advances also serve as a means to educate the broader population on areas of opportunity within women's health.”
North America has the biggest number of start-ups, making up 55% of Femtech companies worldwide with Europe being the second at 25%. However, there are 2 main concerns with Femtech as a whole:
The first is the “pink tax” which refers to a tendency for products marketed for women to be more expensive than the same products marketed for men. For example toiletry items such as razors, deodorants or moisturisers. It’s estimated that in the UK girls and women are charged 37% more for cosmetics and clothes than men. There is a worry that this could happen to Femtech whereby technology is rebranded to appeal to women and in doing so made more expensive. However, Femtech is based on innovation and entirely new services, not simply rebranding an existing software for women.
The second concern is privacy. These apps and services will be collecting data on women’s psychical, mental and emotional health and it’s important that personal information is protected. Especially in cases, for example, in the US where many women deleted period tracking apps from their phones following the overturning of Roe v. Wade because of the information the apps held on their cycles.
Femtech is being held back by women’s health still being a taboo subject which turns away investors and mainstream public interest. However, when it comes to the technology industry as a whole, Femtech is restoring the balance. It’s estimated that women only make up 29% of researchers working in STEM fields but, when it comes to Femtech only 29% of people working in those companies are men. Women have stopped trying to fight the inequality within STEM and instead set up their own space within technology.
“FemTech is absolutely an important investment for technology as a whole as women make up half the population” Markea continued “The technology industry should be representative of the population it seeks to serve, at the very least. Investment in technology also accelerates progress in advancing women's issues, and is often a conduit to building a more equitable future.”
For Femtech to keep growing, we must keep researching, seeking out these companies and support them, not just to benefit Femtech but to benefit the new research being conducted through these companies and to benefit ourselves with specialised services.