Why femtech is the future: how to get into femtech and why we need more women leading the charge
By Jan Gernale
In case you haven’t heard of the phrase femtech before, the term ‘femtech’ has been around since 2016, coined by Ida Tin who is the Co-Founder of the fertility app ‘Clue’. In short, femtech refers to tools, products, services, and technologies that address women’s health. It is an exciting era for femtech, and in particular, for women using these products. It is a time when women have more insights and control over issues that impact their bodies more than ever before! With tech developments increasing our tracking, understanding, and knowledge about areas of change and development women experience in their lifetime. We’ll explore some of the latest and great innovations and share our thoughts for femtech’s future.
What exactly is femtech’s mission ?
Femtech’s overall mission isn’t just to create technology for tech’s sake, but to innovate products that help solve problems that are faced by women in society every day. Previously, it was men creating these products and bringing them to market without fully understanding the challenges that women face. Meaning that very real needs were being ignored, erased or classified as “extra” or unnecessary, where specific women’s health needs become an afterthought. Thankfully, there are more-and-more female founders in this space, addressing key needs, but more needs to be done to ensure femtech has a diverse range of tech innovation input.
Did you know? That 51% of global iPhone users are female but it took a year for Apple’s healthkit app to be updated
With features that include women’s health realities. As proof that women know what we need first, Ida Tin released Clue, a health app that can be used to track and record your period cycle, to the public in 2013.
The impact of femtech goes far beyond just creating mobile apps, but creating new inventions and services that not only help with the day-to-day management of key women’s health areas, but also help drive conversation, understanding and wider awareness of women’s health in workplaces and society. It can help normalise conversations about women’s health and can also bring about conversations of levelling out the gender gap – especially for more male-dominated industries such as tech.
Erasing the taboo with technology
Being able to work in technology involves working towards solutions that help to solve greater problems in society. Femtech’s overarching mission works towards improving gender diversity in society, increasing accessibility and opportunities for women to have their voices and needs heard. It’s about facing topics that may have been considered taboo previously and taking charge of their meanings, such as approaching the topic of sexual health and what it means for women to truly understand their own bodies.
For too long, conversations about periods and sexual health were kept on the down low, and only recently, more open conversations about menopause are happening and the impact this has on women. These are all positive steps, and the sooner the ‘taboo’ is removed from all these conversations, the better. But it goes beyond these life changes, femtech is pioneering ways in which women can approach serious health-related concerns such as cancer.
Building a femtech enabled future
Femtech aims to help with clinical diagnosis by encouraging more people to approach health-related concerns such as cervical cancer; currently there are 3,200 new cases yearly in the UK. As well as breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in the UK – to get checked up and prioritise early preventative measures.
Cervical cancer awareness with Teal Health – Founded by Dr. Avnesh Thakor and Kara Egan
Teal Health has created products that allow women to perform their own vaginal collection, either at their clinic or in the comfort of their own home, to test for cervical cancer. This great innovation allows for better access to health tools that can empower women to take charge of their physical health and well-being. Some women experience anxiety when thinking or signing up for a physical health exam, and often end up avoiding it altogether if they can – or maybe are too busy to go for a health check. Teal Health makes this better by alleviating the anxiety and time constraints of booking and visiting appointments, as the Teal Health test kit can be delivered to your chosen address. It also takes only around five minutes to perform the self-collection or with your chosen health practitioner using the teal wand. 91% of women who partook in the clinic study said they preferred using the self-collection method at home. All in all, Teal Health’s goal is to eradicate cervical cancer by creating awareness and confidence around the topic, as well as increasing participation in preventative measures through this new technology.
Menstruation awareness with Clue – Founded by Ida Tin
Menstruation is a biological experience most women have for the majority of their lives, and yet many still encounter negative stigmas or feel unsafe to approach the topic, due to lack of resources and awareness. In the UK, around 44% of young girls are not made aware of what a period is or how to take care of their bodies, and more than 60% feel scared or embarrassed. This outlook on periods stems from a history of misogyny, even though ‘menstruation far predates language’ (Clue). It’s difficult to pin down exactly when or why society decided that periods were a taboo subject, but even today, a large portion of the world still shies away from talking openly about it. Which prevents girls from managing their periods with dignity.
According to Thinx, “76% think we are taught more about the biology of frogs than the biology of the human female body in school”.
This is shocking since most of us encounter more women on a day-to-day basis than a frog! With more applications and products, such as the Thinx hygienic underwear for periods, being created with consumers’ needs in mind – we can move towards a society that allows for many more girls and women to safely and securely approach the topic without fear of embarrassment or anxiety.
Today, ‘Clue’ is known as a period-tracking app used by women all around the world as a calendar to log their menstrual cycles. But fun fact, it initially started out as a tech-based method of birth control that began with Ida Tin’s intention to start a family of her own, but was looking for a way to track her fertility. Ida found that there had not been a tech solution created to help fulfil this yet, and so Clue was born! Designed to give women access to unique data about their body and health such as period cycles & fertility. But through their own unique content hub and community, has brought better awareness to topics such as contraception and birth control, menopause, PCOS and even endometriosis.
Want to get into femtech? Our recommendations to get involved
If this is an area you feel passionate about…
Then you’ve found the right article because Code First Girls is here to suggest ways you can start your new career in tech, switch careers into the tech industry – specifically femtech, and increase your impact in your current positions.
Step 1 – Broaden your knowledge and learn from some key figures in the industry
Start by broadening your knowledge
If your interest is in talking about or creating solutions for reproductive health and the topic of contraception, the first step we recommend is broadening your knowledge on the topic and understanding how male-dominated design has impacted tech and our everyday lives. We’ve got two great book recommendations to start you off:
‘How The Pill Changes Everything’ by Sarah Hill
Stigmas attached to the topic of contraception often make both men and women shy away from talking about the subject. This book is great at addressing the topic from both a biological and social perspective on how the contraceptive pill affects women’s bodies through digestible research. It explores how it should not be a battle between women vs our hormones, but in actuality, we are our hormones. In order to understand how contraception works and how to debunk stigmas, it all comes down to understanding the way our hormones work.
If you’re keen to understand a different perspective on addressing the gender imbalance and why we need more women in tech to help with innovation, we recommend the book:
‘Invisible Women: Data Bias In A World Design For Men’ by Caroline Creado Perez
This book addresses what we mentioned earlier on in this article about how many aspects of the world are designed with women’s needs secondary in mind.
‘Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.’
Books are a great place to start, but we then recommend learning more (and following) some key figures and businesses in the industry. There are wayyy more than the three we have listed below, so make sure you do some research! Below we are sharing three amazing women who’ve become leading innovators in femtech.
Tania Boler, Founder and CEO of Elvie.
Tania is a prime example of someone who is passionate about debunking taboos – such as those within women’s health, she founded Elvie in 2013 to create a global hub of connected health and lifestyle products for women. Elvie is about embracing the female body for what it naturally is and using technology to empower confidence. In 2019, Elvie raised the largest funding for a female-led femtech company moving into a Series B.
Elvie is leading the way with their smart technology designed precisely for women’s needs by women themselves. Their fantastic range includes a variety of helpful devices such as the Elvie pump, the stride and the trainer. Each device has it’s own unique benefits and capabilities to empower mother’s everywhere to conquer the everyday hustle and bustle of life. With these smart technologies, both women and babies are given great support and care throughout the pre and post-natal stages.
We are very proud and excited to have Sarah Liddell, Chief Product Officer of Elvie, as our guest on our #REPRESENT series which you can watch here.
Check out the CFG Youtube Channel
Alicia Chong Rodriguez, is the founder of Bloomer Tech.
Alicia used her background in engineering – as well as her Master’s which also combines design and business, to integrate washable and flexible circuits with machine learning, into clothing that can capture and track a woman’s cardiovascular and respiratory health. It allows for greater personalised healthcare that is able to create data for doctors and medical professionals to utilise for better treatments.
Wanna learn more? Check out Alicia’s fantastic TED talk
Judit Giro Benet, Founder and Biomedical Engineer of Blue Box.
In the USA, 1 in 8 women have a chance of developing breast cancer and are often left undiagnosed. But with Blue Box, women are able to use this AI device in the comforts of their own homes to screen for breast cancer. A greater benefit that encourages more women to regularly check in is that this method is an inexpensive, noninvasive, non-irradiating and pain-free breast cancer test that can lower the anxiety of going in for a medical appointment for many, and the product itself can be used many times. Judit’s main contribution is not to solve breast cancer but rather ‘build consumer-driven, affordable healthcare focused on prevention and prediction.’
Explore more companies leading the charge with femtech:
To learn more about a wider array of companies, check out our recent blog on ‘Breaking Barriers in Women’s Health: Top 10 Femtech companies to watch’.
Step 2 – Learn and build new tech skills
To kickstart a career in femtech, the next step you’ll need to take is learning some of the core concepts you are likely to need, and this will depend on where your interests lie.
Apps, data, websites and more!
All of the courses are 100% FREE, so kickstart your career in femtech now!
You can find out more about our introduction classes here!
And for those who already have some starter skills, check out our CFGdegree here!
Step 3 – Become a femtech champion!
Women championing other women is always great to see and encourage in every organisation or across social circles! You can make a difference by championing different femtech technologies (and making your friends and family aware of the many options available).
What difference do you want to make?
First of all, is there an area that you are passionate about? Inside your company or organisation, why not be a champion of women’s health to help grow knowledge and support inside the business? These could be topics such as free period products in bathrooms, bringing awareness to menopause or women’s health throughout the wider company. Perhaps speak to leaders or HR about how employees may have access to women’s health support apps as an example or perhaps look at a women’s health network? Or even getting your company to explore regular health checks for women (e.g. breast checks, cervical cancer checks) and how this is supported from a business perspective. Developing a great pitch to present to your HR team or key stakeholders based on a cause you are passionate about is a great way to kickstart a safe and supportive community for the women in your firms.
Champion women in your organisation!
Building confidence in your workforce and team is a great way to champion women, by providing opportunities to upskill in new areas and seek new areas for growth. This could come in the form of developing mentoring programs, inclusive community groups or encouraging your teams to take on courses to upskill such as those with CFG.
It’s now in your hands
We hope this has helped to inspire you or at least get a feel for what femtech is and what areas you might find yourself in – either now or in the near future. Think about it as a call sign for more women to join the femtech force because we need you!