Femtech, a term that combines ‘female’ and ‘technology’, started with a host of apps and services designed to improve and monitor women’s health.
Originating with period tracking apps (the term ‘femtech’ was coined by Clue founder Ida Tin), femtech now encompasses fertility and pregnancy apps and apps to monitor pelvic health, as well as the development of diagnostic tools and other products like breast pumps and menstrual supplies.
As an industry, femtech has enjoyed a quick ascension—and for good reason: women have historically been left out of the medical conversation around health. In the US, women were often excluded from clinical trials until 1993, and most western medical systems have been built based on a male model of health.
“The rise of so-called femtech is part of three larger movements currently going on,” she said.
“The feminist surge (as well as the #metoo movement); the huge technological revolution that’s yielding instant personal data; and the paradigm shift in health, in which the traditional patient/doctor relationship is giving way to individual control of our own health.”
That desire for a more individual experience in how we manage our own health is growing, leading to more companies and technologies developing around the idea of a more personalised experience of healthcare.
From apps that let you manage prescriptions and text physicians directly, to widely-available genetic testing and tools that enable users to manage their own health (such as the devices made by Elvie), tech is playing a big role in empowering non-medical professionals to engage more directly with their own well-being.
Medical issues affect men and women alike, so why has femtech become such an important part of the conversation around personalised healthcare?
The answer is in part due to how women’s health issues have been pushed to the fringes for far too long.
In 2018, the FDA acknowledged that “years of neglect of these issues, and at times ignorance of them, have left us with disparities when it comes to the delivery of healthcare” and announced a plan to focus more on therapies for women.
Tania Boler points out that though the tech community took some time to adjust to Elvie’s mission, they are adapting. “Change is happening on the edges,” she says, “in start-ups,” and if the industry continues as it’s going we can look forward to even more innovation in femtech.
The future of femtech is so bright, in fact, that one study suggests a market potential of $50 billion USD by 2025.
While many of these technologies are a long time coming, some question if the label ‘femtech’ might not end up hurting the industry.
The detractors fear that the term may end up pigeonholing women’s health, relegating it to a niche industry for women in which only women invest and develop.
Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of Ada Lovelace Day, is one of the women who fears the label could be harmful in the long run.
“If it evolves into just being tech, that’s fine,” she says. “It only becomes a problem if it becomes something that only female VCs [venture capitalists] invest in, that only female entrepreneurs work on, that only women buy.”
Whatever the label, it’s profitable: personalised health is a top 5 investment area.
Which means the future of wellness is, increasingly, in our hands.