Alexandr Khomich, President & CEO at Andersen.
FemTech is a relatively new technology sector (the term was proposed by Ida Tin in 2016). According to McKinsey, “FemTech provides a wide range of solutions to improve healthcare for women across a number of female-specific conditions, including maternal health, menstrual health, pelvic and sexual health, fertility, menopause, and contraception, as well as a number of general health conditions that affect women disproportionately or differently (such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease).”
The defining focus of businesses and apps in this field is enhancing healthcare for women across an array of concerns tied directly to biological differences or health statistics.
FemTech definitely holds promise, drawing in investments and startups. However, while headlines often hype a “FemTech revolution,” the question remains: Is there ample evidence proving that technologies focused on women’s health are skyrocketing?
The “FemTech Revolution”: Hype Vs. Reality
While the sector has indeed seen growth, a closer look reveals a more nuanced picture.
Google Trends indicates only moderate growth in interest in this field over the past five years, significantly lagging behind such common health tech terms as “telemedicine” or “healthcare AI.”
Investment trends further indicate that FemTech’s growth, while real, is hardly explosive. As per Statista‘s data, the worldwide market reached a valuation of $51 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to achieve $103 billion by 2030, reflecting an 8.1% CAGR. Notably, female-focused health tech only attracted 3.3% of digital health funding in the U.S. between 2011 and 2020.
Unlike telemedicine, which dates back to 1874 when the telegraph was employed to aid in the medical care of a wounded person and experienced explosive growth during the Covid-19 pandemic, FemTech has witnessed a more gradual, steady increase in adoption.
So, while FemTech is growing, framing it as a “revolution” seems to be an exaggeration at this point.
Key FemTech Growth Drivers
But what precisely fuels the growth of the industry?
In February 2022, McKinsey & Company published an analysis of 763 FemTech businesses, unveiling the industry drivers that are gaining momentum. Public recognition, the establishment of new companies and financial backing are all experiencing significant growth.
Covid-19 is an important driver. Google Trends indicates an increase in interest in FemTech during the pandemic. With the healthcare system overwhelmed, digital health products became indispensable not only to the treatment of Covid-19 but also to addressing other healthcare needs. Another driver is the trend toward healthcare consumerization, particularly among Millennials and Gen-Z, who harbor higher digital expectations and seek to apply digital solutions beyond just car rentals and grocery deliveries.
The rapid development of various technologies, including AI, is one more growth factor. Additionally, broader societal shifts have brought more attention to women’s unmet health needs and the value of gender-specific care. Movements to destigmatize “taboo” topics such as menstruation, menopause and sexual health and growing awareness of gender specificity of some non-reproductive diseases have increased demand for FemTech innovations.
Ultimately, the engagement of women in FemTech startups, as highlighted in the McKinsey study mentioned earlier (more than 70% of the examined companies had at least one female founder), has added the essential talent and passion required to drive the industry forward. Firsthand awareness of women’s needs significantly enhances product development.
Filling Healthcare Gaps For Women
Modern FemTech businesses are developing solutions tailored to women’s bodies and unique needs rather than merely marketing general health products and services to female consumers. They address the gaps in traditional healthcare. For instance, period and fertility tracking apps like Clue and Flo use algorithmic insights derived from menstrual cycle data to offer personalized reproductive health information.
When we examine the 2023 trends in FemTech development, it becomes evident that search interest growth is highest for startups focusing on fertility and family planning, menopause and breastfeeding and postpartum care. While this data can guide emerging companies toward promising development opportunities, they should be aware that the relationship between search interest and effective, revenue-generating demand for digital health solutions is not as apparent as in B2C sales.
Guiding Principles For Ethical And Equitable FemTech
In the modern world, these technologies must be developed and implemented in ethical and equitable ways that genuinely benefit women’s health, promoting health equity, especially for marginalized communities. Famous U.S. physicians and public health specialists have proposed Guiding Principles for developing FemTech tools to help achieve this. Undoubtedly, this Guide will be valuable for developers in helping them prevent acceptance, usability and even regulatory issues, as the authors have also outlined ways to incorporate these principles into the key phases of FemTech development.
These principles emphasize the following.
• Inclusive design processes that actively engage end-users and community stakeholders, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Their input and feedback should inform all stages of FemTech development and deployment.
• Person-centered frameworks that help to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches and, instead, account for individuals’ unique needs, priorities and circumstances.
• An explicit focus on addressing health disparities and advancing health equity. In addition to driving profits, FemTech should strive to improve outcomes for populations with the greatest health needs.
Some companies embracing these principles include FOLX Health, Health In Her HUE and Kasha. They create digital products for women with low incomes, Black women and individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community.
By prioritizing ethical and equitable design processes, FemTech can fulfill its promise to enhance women’s well-being and promote just and compassionate innovations. Additionally, this approach can enhance usability, making FemTech solutions more attractive and, potentially, commercially successful.
The FemTech sector has indeed witnessed expansion and increasing investments recently. However, barriers such as stigma, a lack of understanding among male investors and funding gaps for women founders remain persistent obstacles.
While optimism is present, the data cautions against overestimating current gains. A long road is still ahead before FemTech’s transformative impact can be fully realized. Patience and persistence will be required to attract capital, develop talent and reshape perceptions. A continued focus on funding, research and education is essential to enable this sector to achieve its ambitious goals.