The term “femtech” was coined by Ida Tin, the founder of Clue, in 2016. It now represents an industry that is estimated to be worth $1 trillion by 2027. It’s often used as a catch-all term to describe technology products and services which address women’s health issues.
You might think you know everything you need to know about femtech. But in my experience, some of society’s preconceived ideas about what it means to be a femtech business are wrong.
Myth 1: It’s all about menstruation and the menopause
Menstruation and menopause are two central pillars of femtech innovation, with companies like Clue and Flo leading the charge. But the industry isn’t limited solely to these fields.
The femtech industry covers all products and services (including apps and wearables) targeted at treating female health concerns, such as ovarian cancer and endometriosis; as well as universal health issues which disproportionately impact women like osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases. The term can also be used as a label for female-oriented tech companies more broadly, for example, female audio porn and female financing startups.
Femtech innovation and research into these conditions is vital for closing the gender health gap. Historically, the male body has been the default in Western medical research and findings have been applied to women with minimal tweaks, creating deep gender biases in medicine. In fact, up until 1993 women were not legally required to be part of clinical trials in the UK, meaning we have limited clinical research into the effectiveness and side effects of treatments on women. This absence of data, and lack of sex-disaggregated data more widely, is a global problem. And means that health conditions which disproportionately, or only, impact women are severely under-researched.
Femtechs like Endogene.bio (a French startup developing a biomarker for Endometriosis) and Samphire Neuroscience (which is using neurostimulation to improve PMS and PMDD pain) are helping to fix this.
The gender health data gap also has an impact on female patient outcomes. Women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack than men, and also more likely to die from them, too. That’s why femtech is exploring female cardiovascular health like Bloomertech (which is generating precision biomarkers to help treat cardiovascular disease in women) are so vital.
Similarly, the average time taken to diagnose female patients with cancer is 2.5 years longer than men. So, companies like GenoME Diagnostics (which focuses on early-stage ovarian cancer detection) are innovating to improve the situation for women.
Clearly, femtech is not just about menstruation and menopause. It’s an industry that is attempting to course correct, and improve healthcare for women across a multitude of specialities; by researching and providing solutions which are tailored to the female experience of illness.
2. It’s worth a lot more than you think
At first glance, the odds may appear to be stacked against femtech. Currently, only 3% of health tech funding goes to femtech startups. And many female founders struggle to secure backing from (predominantly male) VCs. But take the time to look a little closer and it’s clear that interest in femtech is growing.
The opportunities for femtech innovation are huge, not least due to the knowledge gap in the treatment of female health. The good news is that it makes it a promising area for growth, as many areas like female reproductive cancer (aside from breast cancer) and female-specific mental health care, have gone underexplored until now.
Plus, in recent years we’ve seen a new wave of interest in the field, evidenced by initiatives like the UK government’s first Women’s Health Strategy. Estimates suggest the femtech industry could be worth $1 trillion in the next four years. Making it a much more promising area for disruption than many think.
3. It serves a niche demographic
An industry which caters to over half of the global population is not niche, especially when women are the main consumers of healthcare products. And the beneficiaries of femtech extend far beyond just women. Femtech solutions also significantly benefit men, transgender and non-binary people, too. We must ensure that associations around the word femtech don’t make anyone feel excluded. We must also recognise the benefit better female healthcare (and therefore happier, healthier women) brings to women’s partners, families and communities.
At a macro level, new advancements in femtech enable doctors to treat women more effectively, reducing patient wait times and improving care for everyone. Plus, new knowledge and breakthroughs will have influence and uses across multiple health disciplines.
By extinguishing outdated assumptions about the femtech industry that act as barriers to funding and progress, we ensure that advancement in the space continues. This means we can find new solutions for women’s health issues, improve how we diagnose and treat general health conditions in women and create better healthcare solutions for all.