4 min read
Females make up half of the population of the world, but many of the issues they have to deal with, from menstruation to menopause, have often been considered taboo subjects. In fact, until very recently, medical technology and devices for women have been considered niche.
For many years, medical technology and products have historically been developed by men, tested on men and for men, with women expected to adapt. As a result, many diagnoses in women are still undetermined, and it takes several years longer to establish comparable diagnoses in women than in men.
The rise of trailblazing innovators and entrepreneurs creating, designing and developing products and apps for women has started a women’s health revolution by lifting health taboos around the world and giving rise to a global “Femtech” industry worth many billions.
What is Femtech
Femtech, also called female technology, is a newly recognised health sector that relates to technology such as mobile apps, wearables, diagnostic tools and software that is specifically geared towards the needs of women.
Opportunities in Femtech sectors
Today, Femtech accounts for more than 200 start-ups worldwide, many of which have been founded and led by women.
Numerous spaces and new opportunities in areas such as sex and reproduction, menstruation, fertility, and pregnancy have emerged as age-old issues are being addressed by the unification of modern technology and a focus on women’s health.
While the Femtech industry is still relatively young and underfunded, it is predicted that the industry will grow exponentially in the coming years. Revolutionary steps are continually being taken to balance out gender disparities in the healthcare industry, propelling the agenda of Femtech into the modern world.
In fact, the topic of Femtech has been searched more than ever previously recorded and is on an upwards trajectory.
(Graph obtained from Google trends. Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular.)
The shift towards women’s health has also coincided with the next wave of wearable tech products prompting an explosion of wearable technology focused on women’s health, for example, wearable smartwatches to track mensuration and pregnancy and temperatures trackers to identify fertility phases.
On the other hand, the menopause market is an area of enormous opportunity as technology is lacking and largely unexplored. While all women will experience menopause at some point, the availability of products to assist wth tracking symptons is poor, including analogue charts, and very little technology exists for treating symptoms. For that reason, we expect to see this area thrive in the future.
Ongoing challenges in Femtech
While the medical technology and device industry is shifting a considerable amount of time and effort towards women’s health, the industry still faces many challenges.
Breaking down barriers, taboos and getting health data into the hands of those who can utilise it has been a real hurdle within the industry. A particular challenge within Femtech is securing funding. In essence, this requires overcoming the hurdle of pitching female specific products to mostly male investors which solve a problem they don’t understand and can’t relate to.
Other challenges include:
- Receiving public support about subjects people are less likely to talk about.
- Fewer researchers in women health fields mean fewer people to apply for grants.
- Concerns about trust, security and privacy and fear of repercussions if sensitive data was released.
Future of Femtech
The future of Femtech is bright as the awareness of female-oriented health and technology continues to gain momentum, while the taboo around women’s health dissipates.
So far we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in female-focused technology. Notably, the developments in AI and the Internet of Things have largely contributed to the rise of Femtech and will continue to do so. Only recently have tech juggernauts, Fitbit and Apple, developed technology aimed at women’s health. In April 2018, Fitbit unveiled a woman focused smartwatch which allows women to track their menstrual cycle, followed by Apple in June 2019, who added a reproductive health tracking feature to their operating platform.
According to a report by research consultancy Frost & Sullivan, the value of the industry is increasing rapidly. It was estimated that the Femtech industry was worth US$200 million in 2018 and will skyrocket to a potential worth of US$50 billion by 2025.
As Femtech continues to pave the future, we will continue to explore other aspects of Femtech in Australia and Femtech in relation to Intellectual property through a series of focused articles.
Authored by Connie Land and Allira Hudson-Gofers