If you’re a contemporary woman taking advantage of today’s plethora of online information, you may have run across the newest buzzword circulating all over the worldwide web. “FemTech” is a term that crops up increasingly in search engines, and refers to a new industry centering women, and particularly, women’s sexuality and reproductive health, by harnessing the power of state-of-the-art technology.
The term FemTech was coined by Berlin-based tech industry pioneer Ida Tin to describe this specific, growing sector of the tech industry that provides technologically-based solutions that support women’s reproductive health and wellness. Tin came up with the term after seeing the rise in women-owned tech businesses that deliver innovative modern solutions to age old problems, and realized that an important and innovative movement was on the rise. In order to identify and support that movement, it needed a name under which these companies can rally together and attract investors as well as a highly lucrative consumer market that has, for centuries, been ignored and neglected by companies catering primarily to the needs of men.
Taking Women’s Health and Sexuality into Our Own Hands
Tin is the founder and CEO of Clue, an app launched in 2013 to help women track menstrual periods. According to Tin, the FemTech movement is all about providing simple and convenient technological solutions that enhance and improve the lives of women by providing convenient access to everyday health solutions.
For example, Clue not only helps you track your period to help you better understand your fertility cycle, it also provides a feature that helps you share this info with your partner, a helpful way to get them to be more supportive and involved in your sexual health. Similarly, the period-tracking and hormone-balancing app MyFLO offers a “partner sync” feature that helps your partner better understand your hormonal state and where you are in your cycle on any given day. These tools are helping women to take control of our health care while also helping those around us to value and understand the nature of our reproductive health.
The information provided by such apps may also be highly useful to health care practitioners in helping to diagnose gynecological conditions and monitor the effectiveness of treatment plans. While in years past, a condition such as endometriosis might have taken years diagnose, an app that can help a woman track her menstrual symptoms may help her to more quickly identify and note abnormal patterns and seek medical attention sooner rather than later.
Another useful and time-saving FemTech app is Nurx, which helps women get birth control solutions delivered directly into their mailbox for as little as $15 a month without the need for an office visit. The site also provides prescriptions to the highly touted PrEP medication Truvada® that helps prevent the spread of HIV. Nurx is HIPAA compliant and staffed by qualified doctors that are helping women take preventive health care into their own hands and save hundreds of dollars on conventional office visits, while also assisting the many thousands of women in the US who don’t have access to health insurance.
Other FemTech companies provide high-tech devices that women can use to simplify their health care easily and affordably, such as Yarlap, a device that helps to tone and strengthen the female pelvic floor muscles and prevent embarrassing bladder leaks. For nursing mothers, a company called Aeroflo makes a smart breast pump that makes no noise and may be used discreetly in public locations. Add to the list Lioness, the world’s first smart vibrator and sexual health tracker that helps women explore and learn about their own sexuality.
Beyond the production of apps and devices, FemTech companies are also pioneering solutions to help women take advantage of professional services such as online therapy, which grants us the privacy and flexibility of approaching these services on our own terms. One such company is us, Isbel. Offering sex therapy, relationship coaching and counseling services online for women, provided by a team of women professionals who understand and are specialized in providing this type of mental health and sexuality support, is a new approach to a service that has typically cost time and money in person.
The FemTech Industry as a Growing Market
With a market that represents 51% of the world’s population, much growth can continue to be expected in the FemTech sector. In fact, according to a report published by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan on the rise of the growing FemTech industry, products and services provided by FemTech companies represent a market that could easily grow to generate $50 billion in global revenues by the year 2025. In fact, Shruthi Parakkal, a senior research analyst at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan predicts, “The economic contribution of women is expected to outpace the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of China and the United States by 2020.”
As more and more FemTech companies crop up, the industry continues to boom, with technological innovations that contribute to advancements in the medical field while helping women to identify and get immediate help with health concerns. It also helps women to understand our health issues are often universal, and especially, that they are important. By contributing to an open, ongoing, international dialogue on women’s reproductive and sexual health, the FemTech industry is making giant strides in liberating global attitudes around female sexuality and women’s health.
One example of the economic potential of a FemTech business is The Flex Company, headed by founder and CEO Lauren Schulte. The Flex Company has designed and markets a menstrual disc that provides a healthier and more convenient alternative to tampons. Today, the company boasts annual revenues in the multi-million dollar category.
While the tech industry is still a male-dominated playing field, and FemTech companies admittedly face their share of difficulties in attracting investment funding and corporate recognition, many FemTech startups boast that they’ve been able to successfully overcome these obstacles. More and more FemTechs are attracting important corporate investors, and seeing successful economic growth, which means that we can expect more and more FemTech companies to crop up, providing more and more innovative products, services, and opportunities specifically for women. And this is very good news for women, both as entrepreneurs and as consumers.