When you think of the tech industry, you often think of male entrepreneurs. But more and more women are making a mark in this field, and one result of this is the rise of a new industry called FemTech. Ida Tin, CEO of the period-tracking app Clue and coiner of the term “FemTech,” recently discussed where the industry is going on a Geekettes panel, along with Clue’s Science and Education Manager Anna Druet and Head of Content Amanda Cormier.
FemTech is any technology geared toward improving women’s lives, Tin explained. It includes not only period-tracking apps like Clue but also pelvic floor exercisers like the Yarlap, smart sex toys like the Lioness, and birth control apps like Nurx. When Tin started seeing all these companies pop up, she thought, “Hold on, there is a category on the rise here.” She explained on the panel, “That’s a big thing. … Then, investors can say, ‘I have four FemTech companies in my portfolio’ instead of ‘I have a company for women peeing in their pants.’ That’s hard for a male investor to say.”
As more and more people in the tech industry and outside it understand the importance of FemTech, it will grow and grow. So, here are some things to understand about FemTech and its future.
“Women can only fulfill their potential and their life purpose when they have some agency over their own body and their own childbearing,” Tin explained, pointing out that there’s been little innovation in birth control since the Pill’s invention in the 50s. The goal of FemTech is to give women more control over their health, their happiness, and their futures. Knowledge is power, after all, and technology gives us knowledge.
Speaking of knowledge, apps like Clue are informative not just for users but also for the scientific understanding of our bodies. “One of the exciting things about merging tech and female health is that we start having exciting amounts of data,” says Tin. “We can talk to millions.” As an example, Druet said Clue has found that women’s hormones are different in East and West Germany. Getting this data otherwise would “take so much money and so much effort,” she explained. Similarly, data from Lioness have established the three kinds of female orgasm. It’s much easier for companies to analyze the data their users are already putting out than it is for an institution to get a study approved, carried out, and published.
Between helping women understand their own bodies and adding to the greater scientific knowledge about the female body, FemTech can ultimately help those suffering from medical conditions. For example, endometriosis takes 10 years on average to diagnose. But if a woman can track her period symptoms with an app, it may be able to tell her that her periods are abnormal and she should go to a doctor. And when she’s at the doctor’s, she can accurately report what symptoms she’s been experiencing to receive a diagnosis and treatment faster. “Every data point you track is helping shape the future for younger girls,” said Druet.
Unfortunately, the majority of the tech industry is still male, which can make it a struggle for women’s health startups to get funding and attention. However, when FemTech companies do succeed, they help men understand women’s health. When Tin gives presentations to men, she’ll often show a graph of female hormonal changes throughout the month and then another showing how male hormones stay constant. At that point, the men begin to think, “Maybe I don’t fully understand it, but I understand there’s something I don’t understand,” she said.
Clue has a feature that lets you share your cycle with someone else if you’d like, and the period-tracking app MyFLO has a “partner sync” feature that tells your partner what you might like based on where you are in your cycle. These kinds of capabilities allow us all to value women’s health instead of viewing it as mysterious or irrelevant.
Women are routinely gaslighted about their own pain or told by doctors that their health issues are normal. Or, their sexual problems are treated as unimportantbecause they’re not supposed to like sex anyway. By creating technology to improve women’s reproductive and sexual health, FemTech is getting us to talk about these topics and treat them like they matter — because they do.
“There’s an emerging understanding that there are many needs, and where there are many needs, there’s also many opportunities,” said Tin. The exciting part is, these needs are just beginning to be recognized, and there will be many more opportunities down the road to improve women’s lives through technology.