The FemTech Surge

“Communities and countries, and ultimately the world, are only as strong as the health of their women” – former US First Lady Michelle Obama

Half of the world’s population are female, and the economic costs of women’s diseases are estimated to reach more than US$500 billion. However, women’s health care is generally treated like an afterthought.

Medical research primarily focuses on men, with the findings applied to women, overlooking differences between the two genders, for example, in metabolising medications, responding to vaccines, etc. Studies also reveal a widespread “gender pain gap”: doctors and medical professionals frequently ignore women’s pain. Female patients complaining of severe pain have to wait longer for treatment and are less likely to be given painkillers than male patients who complain of the same symptoms.

Fortunately, a growing number of medical tech companies are recognising the need to better serve women, bringing tools and solutions that are women-focused. FemTech encompasses various tech products, apps and gadgets that are designed to cater to women’s health and enhance their well-being, from menstruation to menopause, from pregnancy to child birth, from fertility management to sexual health. There are currently at least 200 FemTech startups worldwide, primarily led by women CEOs and innovators.

The term “FemTech” was coined by Ida Tin, the Danish founder of menstrual tracking app Clue, in late 2016, to describe the women-health-focused tech sector that started to grow. But the industry had been around earlier – and its growth has been impressive. Just a decade ago, according to PitchBook, only US$23 million of venture capital was invested in the FemTech industry worldwide. The funding spiked to US$334 million in 2015, while last year, the number rose to a record of US$391.5 million. The industry is forecast to be worth US$50 billion by 2025.

The FemTech boom is not only changing women’s health care but is also encouraging more discussions about taboo topics like menstruation and women’s sexual health. It also pushes businesses to recognise female consumers are a force to be reckoned with.

Developers are also optimistic that FemTech has great potential to address the gender gap in STEM research. Challenges remain, however. Women start-ups still get only 10% of global investments and venture capitalists remain predominantly men. “The biggest initial obstacle was demonstrating the value and opportunity of a women’s health in what is a vastly male-dominated tech scene,” Tin reflected her early challenges in raising investments for Clue.

There are a lot of exciting developments in FemTech in Hong Kong. To showcase some of the women leading the way, we are holding a discussion on FemTech on February 27 as part of our TECH Talk Series in partnership with Bloomberg. Our speaker line-up includes Nicole Denholder, founder and CEO of Next Chapter, a funding portal for female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses; Stephanie Ko, senior country manager at Ava Women, which produces fertility-tracking wearables; and Katrina Shin, assistant professor at Polytechnic University, who helped design bras and prostheses for women who have had mastectomies.

Please mark your calendar and join us to explore the up-and-coming industry that is made by women, for women.

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Written by

The Women's Foundation