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Addressing women’s health in the workplace | Interview with Dr Mridula Pore, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Peppy

Peppy is personalised digital health platform that provides support for underserved medical conditions. They work with employers and private medical insurers to offer support to individuals through live consultations, well-being courses, and on-demand resources. Over 250+ companies including Accenture, Adobe, Canada Life, Disney and Marsh McLennan. and 1 million users trust Peppy. Earlier this year, they announced their Series B funding round of €41 million led by Albion VC.

Peppy initially started off as a platform to support individuals with women’s health issues like menopause, endometriosis, and PCOS – at a time when addressing these issues was taboo. They have now expanded to include family and reproductive health for both men and women.

Dr Mridula Pore is the Co-CEO and Co-founder of Peppy. We caught up with Mridula to learn more about Peppy’s growth, addressing women’s health in the workplace and retaining female employees, and the future of femtech.

Peppy was founded in 2018 and initially started with addressing employees managing menopause. At that time, it was overlooked. Could you tell us about the journey of getting employers onboard to change this attitude towards women’s health?

We started Peppy to plug the gap in areas underserved by traditional healthcare and menopause was one of those gaps. While not everyone born a woman will have children, all will go through menopause. So yes, it was a huge taboo issue hiding in plain sight.

Thankfully, the conversation is starting to change and that has to do with two things. The first is that women are speaking up about broader inequities in the workplace, as well as areas of their reproductive health that used to be thought of as taboo, including menopause, menstrual cycles, endometriosis and PCOS amongst others. The second is that the pandemic changed how everyone looks at work. Employers started taking more responsibility for their employees’ health and well-being. At the same time, employees became emboldened to demand more from their jobs when the line between home and work was blurred through lockdown restrictions.

We were able to insert Peppy into this conversation and show companies that the provision of the right kind of healthcare support is reflected in employee retention and attrition rates. When they started recognising this relationship — that having the right healthcare meant hiring and keeping the right kind of talent — we began seeing a real sea-change in everyone’s approach.

Could you share more about your strategy for maintaining strong customer satisfaction? 

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is attributable to the service Peppy provides, which is not just something people want, it’s something they need. Healthcare isn’t a luxury item (at least it shouldn’t be) and people are relieved at not having to deal with wait times and complicated bureaucracy when it comes to seeking care and support. We’re not offering a solution to just a single topic, we offer a platform that enables users to deal with an array of concerns. That means if there is an issue that requires intervention, that intervention will happen earlier, which makes a big difference.

The other part of our success has to do with the user experience. The first aspect of this is to keep things simple. People’s lives are complicated, so are their concerns and their time is limited. That means prioritising clear, easy-to-use design and making sure it’s backed up by a robust team of developers and software engineers. The second is to keep things personalised. The more curated you can make someone’s experience, the better. And the third dimension is to prioritise expertise. Investing in quality personnel pays dividends. When our users come with questions, they’re met with responses from clinically trained experts, many of whom are leaders in their fields. Like our VP of Women’s Health Barbara Dehn who has worked as a nurse practitioner for over 25 years. Or Kathy Abernethy MClinSci RN, our menopause specialist who has served as the former chair of the British Menopause Society (BMS).

Peppy advocates the difference between equity and equality for health benefits in the workplace. Could you tell us more about that?

People use both terms interchangeably and actually there is a very important distinction. When we talk about equality in the workplace, we’re referring to the allocation of the same resources and opportunities to individual employees. That means ensuring equal access to benefits, promotions and mentorship to make people’s experiences as similar as possible. It is an important value, but it can also lead to a one-size-fits-all approach. And when it comes to health benefits, everyone has different needs.

The concept of equity implies something a little different in this context— it starts from the premise that everyone has different circumstances and challenges to face. It will seek to allocate resources in such a way as to work towards equality of outcome. And that’s huge when it comes to health benefits. Women face a slew of challenges related to their health which can prove enormously disruptive to their working lives. On the flip side, men also suffer from gaps in healthcare, something we are talking about more as a society, particularly when it comes to mental health and lifestyle. An equitable approach puts the right support systems in place to create an environment that is receptive to peoples’ problems and adaptive to their needs.

Employers claim that recruiting and retaining female employees is a top priority, but the stats aren’t reflecting this. Why do you think organisations in Europe are not meeting their targets?

Firstly, it’s great news that the gender pay gap has been shrinking. We’re making some progress and at an organisational level this isn’t easy.  As for companies in Europe — policy goals are one thing but changing workplace culture is a much broader commitment. We have observed a shift in how we talk about gender in the workplace, but that needs to be accompanied by putting the right data, processes and infrastructure in place.

Research shows that the gender pay gap opens when a woman has her first child and never closes again because women are disproportionately impacted by caring responsibilities for children and the elderly. Women are also underserved for their reproductive health and there is increasing evidence that this is another reason they participate less in the workplace, or even leave the workplace altogether.

A robust plan for gender equity will take a long-term view to get the right mechanisms in place to attract, nurture and develop female talent. They will result in women being more likely to stick around because they get the support they need through services like Peppy. When those shifts become normalised in our working culture, things will start moving faster.

What more actions do you think employers and business leaders need to take to recruit and retain female employees?

Showing a commitment to a comprehensive workforce strategy, including DEI is a big one. It demonstrates you put your money where your mouth is. If you look at women who are business leaders, statistics show that they are 1.5 times more likely than their male equivalents to have moved jobs to work for companies that prioritise DEI.

Above all, it’s about employers listening to their employees. Health and wellbeing are a big part of that, and there needs to be an ongoing dialogue therein. This can make a huge difference to your employer brand — and you’ll see that reflected in both hiring and employee retention.

Off the back of your last fundraising round, you are entering the US market. Could you tell us more about how you are approaching your expansion into the US?

The United States is obviously a much larger market with a very specific healthcare landscape. While awareness around issues like menopause is growing, there is still an element of taboo at work and we want to be at the forefront of destigmatising the conversation around these issues. We also look forward to promoting dialogue around other underserved areas of health and wellness. We’re excited at the prospect of helping companies be a part of this.

Now let’s look towards the future, what does the future of femtech look like in the next 5 years?

The space is going to grow — and keep growing. We are also going to see an expanded array of offerings which is going to mean more tailored care, better diagnoses, and less stigma. 2021 saw around $2.5 billion in femtech funding, but it still only accounts for around 3 percent of overall digital health funding. As companies like Peppy make inroads into larger markets both in Europe and the United States, we’re going to see that number increase.

And what’s next for Peppy?

Watch this space! Our goal is to be the trusted provider of personalised healthcare support and reach more people than ever. We’ll be working hard on that in the months and years to come.

Amanda Pun
Amanda Pun
Amanda is passionate about startups, particularly in the FinTech and B2C spaces. She was one of the first employees of fintech startup, Homeppl, and has expertise in Product Management and Operations. She is based in London and originally from Canada.

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