Seeing as the term, FemmeTech could be open to a variety of interpretations, for purposes of this article we will limit the meaning to new technologies that address the health and wellness needs of women through software, diagnostics and technology-enabled healthcare service providers.
According to Frost & Sullivan, a leading research group in this field, globally, FemmeTech will be a USD 50bn industry in a mere five years, improving the lives of millions of women. Research has shown that women make 90 % of healthcare purchase decisions in US college-educated households. Consequently, the ‘She Economy’ proves to be a precious market.
FemmeTech, which is the collective term for technologies that promote and protect women’s health, was first coined by Ida Tin, the co-founder of Clue, a period tracking app. An unintended consequence is that the movement is having the effect of destigmatising sexual health. In a mostly male-dominated workspace, women are steadily emerging to lead in this field. And with 50% of the global population as potential customers, interest for investors and venture capital companies is rapidly growing.
Until recently, much of the focus has been on issues concerning fertility and reproduction, but now other considerations such as pregnancy monitoring, menopause, chronic conditions, breastfeeding and sexual wellness have also benefited from research and development – often by women, for women.
Nextgen Jane, a California based company, is using technology they developed to diagnose endometriosis, cervical cancer and other reproductive system medical conditions. The start-up received USD 9m in venture capital support to fund the clinical testing of ‘smart tampons’. The product is inserted for 2 hours and then placed in a test tube as part of a home kit. This is sent off to a laboratory to test for potential pathogens. In this way, the molecular structure of the tissues in the uterus can conveniently be analysed. In addition to the personal benefit, promising volumes of new data and interesting findings are emerging as a result. Example? It has been found that the hormones of women in East and West Germany differ in many respects. What is not yet clear is the reason why.
Femtech, a South African based company which was established in 2012 by Dr Jill Savers and Tina James offers a comprehensive modular training programme for African women entrepreneurs locally, as well as in Namibia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Their objectives are to grow existing technology-enabled businesses and use tech innovatively to improve product and service offerings to women.
Addressing the World Economic Forum, Dr Patrice Matchaba, global head of corporate responsibility at pharmaceutical firm Novartis, expressed the opinion that African countries could become leaders in women’s healthcare as Africa is already accustomed to using technology to manage human resource constraints. These include text and telecommunication services that enable doctors to support nurses and allied workers, such as trained birth assistants in remote locations.
Furthermore, mobile phone-based services such as SMS For Life have helped to develop supply chains and prevent out-of-stock situations for malaria treatments and other medications. Telemedicine now supports nurses in southern Africa in critical decision- making situations and ensures continuity in communication with healthcare workers.
Even General Electric has formed a partnership with EU Lifesciences https://www.insideeulifesciences.com/ to develop a low cost, battery-powered, handheld device to screen for breast health – a much-needed development in developing countries.
When the big guns start weighing in on developing new technologies in support of women’s health, the penny drops that this is a long-neglected field which not only brings excellent value to half the population but has significant potential commercial value.
It’s time to sit up and take notice. The FemmeTech revolution is real.
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