In recent years, FemTech has emerged as a new and exciting field that aims to address the unique health needs of women. From period tracking apps and wearables, to fertility monitors and breastfeeding devices, FemTech innovations have ultimately been developed to improve the lives of women around the world. To honour International Women’s Day this month we wanted to hear directly from the women in our team on their perspectives about the current landscape of FemTech and what it means to them. As a team of innovators and technology enthusiasts, we recognise the importance of FemTech and its potential to revolutionise the healthcare industry.
In addition to discovering what FemTech means to us at Thrive Wearables, we will be highlighting some of the most promising innovations currently available, and exploring the potential of how this sector could be promoting equality and equity in healthcare. As the world becomes increasingly aware of the importance of women's health and wellness, the demand for FemTech products and services will continue to go from strength to strength. Read on to hear our thoughts on the exciting world of FemTech and discuss how it could be the key solution to striving for positive change in healthcare and beyond.
Business Development & Partnerships Manager
Aishwarya explores new industry sectors and nurtures long term partnerships.
Jess works as part of our marketing team creating content, campaigns and organising events.
Josie works as a development engineer across theory, design and testing.
Recruitment and People Operations Executive Kate brings her passion for design and her organisational skills to the People and Ops team.
Marketing and Comms Assistant
As part of our marketing and business team, Lucy creates content and looks after clients.
Head of Marketing
Sophie has specialised in marketing for nearly 15 years, and studied for an MSc.
Product Development Engineer & Project Lead
Zima's BSc in Product Design and an MSc in Robotics and Autonomous Systems brings a fresh perspective to our development engineers.
What does the word FemTech mean to you? Why is it important?
Aishwarya: For me, FemTech is all about tackling the health issues that women face in today’s world- whether that’s by sharing experiences and breaking societal taboos or by creating new technologies to improve women’s health globally and ensuring it’s accessible to all. It’s creating a variety of solutions by adapting the technologies we have around the constraints of the world. It can vary from pregnancy trackers and self-monitoring wearables to utilising digital spaces and sharing knowledge freely to build portable scanning equipment and provide accessible care to underprivileged women. It all comes together to boost a positive change for the next generation and for their well-being!
Jessica: FemTech for me represents empowerment and striving for positive change. It’s so important because it addresses the long-standing gender gap in medical research and technology development that has largely overlooked women's specific health needs.
Josie: Femtech is a way of leading healthcare, specifically feminine care, away from a system that is very male and Eurocentric and expanding understanding in health issues that particularly affect women – being clear and transparent about these issues reduces the stigma associated with female care thus encouraging more to seek out help when it’s needed. I believe it is important to focus on these issues, and by getting involved and having a clear ethos in approach, it paves the way for better targeted care, especially here in the UK where there are major institutional failures that result in larger healthcare inequality for many minority groups, particularly women in these groups.
Kate: To me FemTech is a positive step forward in the advancement of recognising women's needs that have long been overshadowed or undermined. It is important that technology is now being created to work specifically for female health and wellbeing.
Lucy: FemTech to me is a way of combating female specific health problems, with technology. I am glad we have this word now and that is becoming so widely used! Without it we can't pinpoint issues that directly affect certain people and understand why it is important to separate them to make sure they are getting appropriate attention / funding.
Sophie: FemTech, to me, is anything that has been created specifically for women that has a level of biological consideration involved in the design, user experience or about its intended purpose. Having this space elevates the importance of women-focused tech, giving it a much-needed platform for future growth and a stepping stone to a more robust, and fair, share of investment, expertise and awareness.
Zima: To me, FemTech represents a shift in perspective on the health and wellbeing of women and those assigned female at birth. It’s sad that for so long there has been such an ingrained stigma and reluctance to talk openly about normal issues such as menstrual health, sexual health and menopause, but if we can’t talk about it, how can we address it? I think the emergence of Femtech has pushed the issue of women’s health into public view, whilst also providing dedicated products and services which allow us to take control of our own health and wellbeing.
What are some of the most promising femtech innovations that you have come across, and why do you find them compelling?
Aishwarya: Around the world conversations about women’s physical, mental and sexual health are a major taboo. The FemTech solutions that I resonate deeply with are those which tackle these issues and prevent them from being sidelined or dismissed without giving women a chance to explore their health and well-being in a safe environment. For example, a team in India has created a safe and accessible digital platform called Veera that supports women through PCOS by sharing free resources and providing specialised medical care; giving them space to question and learn more about PCOS from the comfort of their homes and without the societal taboos which constrain them. My favourite FemTech solution is Clue; it is one of the earliest instances in which I came across femTech. I used their app to track my extremely painful and irregular menstrual cycle when I was younger and share the insights with my doctors. Clue was easy to understand and use - and this is why many women gravitate towards the solution. They improved my quality of life - and for me that is exactly what FemTech is all about!
Jessica: There are so many promising FemTech innovations available but on a personal level I would have to say TUUNE as they offer a more personalised approach to birth control. I’ve personally really struggled with the limited options birth control has to offer and the effects they’ve had on my body and mental health. It's fantastic to see that progress is being made!
Josie: Pain management for periods is a big one, with 1 in 8 women in the UK having endometriosis and many others with conditions causing painful periods, this is one of many neglected areas in women’s health. Devices like Oovi and Moonly are great in their focus on this issue and hopefully we’ll see this area continue to grow in the future. Another innovation I’m looking forward to seeing become more widespread is recyclable / reusable pregnancy tests. At a time where plastic waste is at an all-time high, and we’re encouraged to cut down on plastic use, as well as a cost-of-living crisis, those on low – even moderate - incomes are forced into uncomfortable situations. Lia has a promising biodegradable version. Cheap and easier access to these tests will be vital in giving every person the power to make an informed decision over their bodies.
Kate: MyOovi is a firm favourite of mine. I own this product and use it monthly. Anything that works to combat menstrual cramps is a winner! This is a very real and sometimes debilitating struggle that many women experience monthly and it's shocking that it has taken so long for products to reach the market. To now see more technology being created specifically for this purpose is incredibly encouraging as it also allows the discussion of female menstruation without shame.
Lucy: As someone who suffers from Menorrhagia and is currently going under investigative surgeries to understand my menstrual health, all products related to this that are on the market are extremely interesting to me! One of my favourite pieces of FemTech hardware is the Oovi and in terms of software I think Natural Cycles is really empowering women to take control of their cycle and understand what's going on in their bodies better.
Sophie: It's great to see the fertility journey getting more funding and exposure, but I also think we're letting mums down during pregnancy and postpartum. It's an incredibly vulnerable time and a neglected part of the journey regarding innovation, or at least the accessibility and adoption of innovation, with many of the products widely available not having changed for decades. It's great to see companies like Mirvie RNA shaping the future of pregnancy health, Ovia offering health plans and support for the whole journey, and Nyssa Care specifically focusing on postpartum recovery products, but a ton more awareness and recognition is needed in this area.
Zima: I love hearing about innovations which have the capacity to improve accessibility and overcome barriers to effective healthcare. These could be financial issues, cultural or religious traditions that present social stigmas amongst others. A great example of this is Elda health, whose digital holistic health platform supports users through their menopause journey through education and awareness, self-management and health interventions to women throughout India.
Do you think femtech is the solution to improving women's health outcomes and experiences?
Aishwarya: Yes - it’s extremely vital in providing healthcare options to women; if you love monitoring your health: use wearables, if you love sharing experiences: join community platforms, and if you need medical support: medical equipment made for, and by women can help predict health issues. It is also a driving force for making education accessible, challenging societal taboos and re-distributing health funds around the world. FemTech highlights that education gives power to women to help them learn, make their own decisions and share this knowledge with the rest of their communities. We now have access to platforms that support menopause, postnatal depression, sexual health challenges and many others which improve women’s personal experiences. These outcomes can be achieved by acknowledging the importance of femtech and investing in its future.
Jessica: I think it plays a huge part in improving women’s health outcomes. Although it may not be the singular answer to all female related health issues I do however believe it will play a pivotal role in getting us there.
Josie: It’s not the only solution, but definitely part. De-stigmatisation and easy access to pain relief, menstrual and reproductive products/devices for individuals is vital in giving us power to be in charge of our health, especially where we have a medical system that is actively discriminatory and dismissive of our issues. I believe it’s important to note that with larger and further reaching attacks on the autonomy of individuals, especially women (take the US and current extremists at UK clinics). It’s harder to trust that by using products such as period trackers etc. that we will be safe to make an informed decision on our health. So while Femtech is definitely an axis of this fight, we can’t ignore social issues impacting the intentions and future usage of these products.
Kate: I think it can be a huge benefit to driving change and bringing visibility to women's needs, but there is still a lot that we need to do as a society to keep pushing for equality.
Lucy: I think it's definitely a big part of a whole ecosystem of things that will help improve health outcomes. The more we realise the potential that technology has (in all forms) and develop a trust in it, the larger that part will get. I think it's time we go back to the drawing board a bit with our healthcare and find new ways that work for us as individuals.
Sophie: I think it's a necessary vehicle for driving change. We all have experiences of women's health, either personally or through someone we know who has maybe not felt supported, or has struggled with a diagnosis. So anything that gives women control over their body and enables them to make informed choices is empowering. Femtech allows us to have difficult conversations, share personal information and give women's voices a bigger platform in a safe environment.
Zima: It certainly has an important part to play. Medical technology has historically been biassed towards men (due to a severe lack of AFAB representation in research studies) It’s not just all about sexual and reproductive health, we vary in our generic healthcare needs - more sensitive diagnostics are needed to identify heart attacks in women, and the symptoms we are typically told to look out for, such as chest pain, often only present in men. FemTech can definitely help to improve health outcomes by combining technology with education and awareness.
Do you believe that the development and promotion of femtech is important for achieving gender equality and equity in healthcare?
Aishwarya: Yes, and we are getting there! We have started to talk about health problems that women face by opening the conversation to people from different cultures, genders and financial backgrounds. One of the best examples is the conversation around gender equality and diversity in AI. Many FemTech leaders have spoken out about the lack of diversity in the teams that develop AI products as this leads to systemic biases when diagnosing women and Women of Colour with physical and mental health issues. And it is only by using these unique experiences that we will lead to innovative FemTech solutions that start that conversation and promote discussion on health care's blindspots to prevent women from feeling unheard and misunderstood within the healthcare system. But with more conversation, with more noise and with more women joining femtech we will see further research into tackling this bias. I believe that when we have diverse voices, we have true healthcare equity.
Jessica: Absolutely! It's a fact that there is a gender health gap, I mean not too long ago women were considered ‘too difficult’ to study which is simply ridiculous. Times are changing and I strongly believe that the development and promotion of femtech is a crucial step for achieving gender equality and equity in healthcare.
Josie: Healthcare is not just affected by what we can solve with technology, and I think it’s vital to remember that social and financial equity also play a big part. It’s about handing power back to us to take control of our health and well-being. However, we will still face medical discrimination at the hands of their doctors and the gender pay-gap will still exist, and that requires systemic change – hopefully, femtech will be a stepping stone to help empower us to enact the change we desperately need.
Kate: It’s essential! By talking about female medical issues and creating technology to help them we are no longer ignoring problems that have long been ignored or disregarded as ‘not important’ due to gender. It's a great step forward and the more technology that is developed, the more visibility it will bring. Female health issues are real issues which need specific care.
Lucy: Yes! bring on the FemTech Revolution! I think some of the issues women face aren't given enough air time at all, we go through such a myriad of different experiences, peri / post menopause, pre / post pregnancy, fertility etc. all of which haven't had nearly enough research or funding put into them. It takes the average person 7.5 years in the UK to get diagnosed with a disease like Endometriosis. That statistic needs to change.
Sophie: 100%. Women's health is a misunderstood and underfunded area and there are too many examples of this, and if nothing is changing from a health system point of view still, then we owe it to women to put the power back, partly, into their own hands and at the very least arm them with considered information, data and equipment. If we can get to a fairer, more accessible (and regulated, recognised and trusted!) system this way, then we simply have to do that.
Zima: Of course! I think one of the most important factors in achieving equality and equity is increasing female representation amongst leaders, research and development teams, investors etc. Medicine and technology are traditionally male dominated spaces, but the majority of FemTech startups are founded and led by women. The potential for change here is really exciting!
If you or someone you know would be interested in collaborating with us to create a FemTech wearable device, get in touch with us today. We offer a varied range of services that can support your development journey as we provide broad technical assistance across all dimensions of device design, prototyping, development and production.