Women, health and technology: the winning trio of femtech

Femme consultant son téléphone mobile

Nowadays, we no longer count the number of neologisms that populate the business world, particularly those constructed with the suffix -tech because they relate to new technologies : medtech , greentech , legaltech , foodtech , etc. These acronyms are born each time from the desire to describe new areas of the economy, which use the latest scientific and technical advances to revolutionize the major traditional sectors: medical, ecology, legal, food. But do you know one of the newest: femtech ? Abbreviation of the expression " female technologies ", femtech is a recent but promising field of activity which brings together within it all the technological innovations dedicated to women's health and feminine well-being . Perdième tells you more about this growing market .

What do we mean by femtech ?

The term femtech designates all products and services meeting specifically female health and well-being needs, designed and developed through the mobilization of know-how and cutting-edge technologies, and digital technology.

Femtech is, in the broadest sense, the sector of activity. Femtech , in a narrower sense, are the companies and the innovative solutions marketed by these companies, which make up and characterize the said sector.

These innovations can be grouped into several segments, linked to the different issues they cover: reproductive health and fertility; pregnancy, maternity and breastfeeding; genital health and menstruation; general well-being (nutrition, mental health, etc.) and sexuality.

At the origins of the word femtech

Femtech is the contraction of the two English terms “ female ” and “ technologies ”, i.e. “woman” and “technology”. The word was coined and proposed by Ida Tin, co-founder and CEO of Berlin-based BioWink GmbH, behind the menstrual cycle tracking app Clue.

The Danish entrepreneur launched Clue in 2013. In 2016, only three years later, she noticed an explosion in the number of similar mobile applications. Added to this are a number of other modern devices which also contribute to a better understanding of women's health (connected patches measuring body temperature to monitor the ovulation cycle, smart jewelry, etc.). She observes confusion in the different terms used to talk about these innovative products 1 . It questions the absence of a collective description that would unite the myriad of actors and solutions in this emerging market. So she suggests “ femtech ”.

In a video published on Clue's YouTube account entitled The rise of Femtech 2 , Ida Tin explains this choice by analogy with the dedicated expression fintech , an acronym for " financial technology ", the technology at finance department.

But in practice, what is femtech ?

Concretely, this involves for example:

  • Clue , Glow or Natural Cycles which offer mobile applications for monitoring the menstrual cycle and fertility, with entry of personal data in a daily diary (body temperature, pain, consistency of cervical mucus, mood, etc.) and visualization of a calendar, to better understand your body and its physiological manifestations, obtain personalized information, use it as a contraceptive method or optimize your chances of conceiving a child;

  • Ava Women and its Ava connected ovulation tracking bracelet which promises to identify the five most favorable days during your cycle for trying to have a baby;

  • The first biodegradable home pregnancy test, which can be flushed directly into the toilet after use, from the company Lia Diagnostics ;

  • Bloomlife and its connected ventral patch which measures the electrical activity of the uterine muscle to follow, as a future mother, her contractions at home;

  • The Elvie Pump, a silent and portable breast pump, and the Elvie Trainer, a connected perineal re-educator;

  • Lola 's subscription service for menstrual products (sanitary pads and tampons, panty liners, heating patches against cramps linked to premenstrual syndrome, etc.) and sexual health products (condoms, lubricant, vibrator);

  • Baûbo and its special vulva care balm, with a 100% natural and 100% organic composition, which helps moisturize and soothe this sensitive area after sexual intercourse, postpartum, in the event of vaginal dryness or temporary irritation.

    Committed start-ups and firms to make things change

    Beyond the technological aspect that brings them together, we note for all femtech companies, start-ups or experienced companies, the sharing of a common vision: to contribute to changing morals for a more egalitarian and inclusive society. Mostly created and led by women for women, they are often driven by a strong commitment as part of a progressive and feminist movement.

    This is the case of Cécile Réal, founder of the company Endodiag , specialized in the development of products and services aimed at improving the diagnosis of endometriosis . Little known to the general public, this gynecological disease is nevertheless common: in France, it affects 1.5 to 2.5 million women, or 10% of women of childbearing age 3 . It is characterized by the abnormal presence of uterine tissue outside the uterine cavity. It causes pelvic pain of varying intensity and often causes fertility problems. It is estimated that on average a woman with endometriosis must wait seven years before receiving a correct medical diagnosis 4 . This medical wandering involves many complications for women in their personal and professional lives, and in their desire for motherhood. The ambition of Cécile Réal, a biomedical engineer by training: to develop new medical devices to facilitate and accelerate the diagnosis of endometriosis and thus improve the medical care of patients. But also to lift the taboo surrounding this disease: “Before, it was a little-known and almost shameful pathology; today, a whole movement has been launched to change things. » 5

    Why is femtech booming so late?

    Femtech is a constantly expanding market. According to Frost & Sullivan, its global value was $487 million in 2020, is estimated at $522 million for 2021 6 and is expected to peak at $1.1 billion in 2024 7 . Its commercial target is half of the world's population, or around four billion potential consumers. However, with less than ten years of existence, it is recent. How come the women's health sector had to wait so long to attract the interest of tech investors?

    Digital and financial ecosystems that are predominantly male

    In her book The Forgotten of Digital published in 2019, Isabelle Collet – computer scientist, teacher-researcher in educational sciences at the University of Geneva, specialist in gender issues in the digital world – explores this under-representation of women in this domain. She notes that “digital is a universe designed, programmed and installed by men” 8 .

    In 2020 in France, the proportion of women in digital professions is around 30% (23% according to Femmes@Numérique 9 , 33% according to the GEF magazine 10 , 36% according to the EY and France Digitale barometer 11 ). But when we exclude the so-called “support” functions, marketing or human resources 10 , it is only half of this workforce which carries out the truly technical functions (cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, etc.). Only 10% of founders and directors of companies in the sector are women 11 .

    Although diversity in the creation and financing of these start-ups is progressing, the investments, decided mainly by men, continue to be made mainly for the benefit of male entrepreneurship: the founding teams made up exclusively of men represent 85 % of start-ups financed and more than 90% of funds raised 12 .

    This male supremacy does not favor the consideration of the particular problems that the female population faces, nor the research and development of practical solutions. The true value proposition of femtech products is not always perceived by this public 13 who cannot experience it. At the time when she was looking for funding and pitching her project to all-male groups, Ida Tin was told several times: “I only invest in products that I can use myself. » 14

    A deep and ancient anchoring of taboos linked to intimacy and the female body

    To understand its importance, it is enough to look at the number of circumlocutions used to talk about the rules, in all countries combined: "having one's things" for the Italians, "the red army" on the Russian side, "the communists are in the place” in the Nordic countries, “strawberry week” in Germany, or even “the English are arriving” on French territory.

    In the same vein (!), Nana created buzz in 2017 in an advertisement for its period pads, by replacing the historically bright blue liquid used to imitate menstrual flow with a blood-red fluid.

    Far from being anecdotal, these examples demonstrate the strong and persistent permeation of these taboos. Increasingly addressed in the public sphere, their deconstruction is taking place little by little. It is in this spirit that Ida Tin places her action: “If women want the world to adjust to their needs, they must not wait but create spaces for themselves, live their lives as they wish, to liberate oneself. For me, this means breaking taboos that surround their bodies – periods for example. » 15

    As you will have understood, femtech seeks to reinvent the field of health for the benefit of women. Like any sector that drives technical progress and has major financial and societal challenges, it calls for questions, particularly on e-health and the management of personal data. It thus constitutes a beautiful gateway for everyone to question the way in which technology and health should combine in the future.

    To extend reading:

    Written by cd

    Sources :

    1. Tin, I. (2016, September 15). The rise of a new category: Femtech . LinkedIn.
    2. Clue. (2016, September 29).Ida Tin: The Rise of Femtech [Video]. Youtube.
    3. Ministry of Solidarity and Health. (2019, August 21). Endometriosis .
    4. EndoFrance Association. (2021, March 6). EndoFrance: French association for the fight against endometriosis .
    5. INPI. (2021, January 5). Endodiag: biotechnology against endometriosis .
    6. Fernandez, M. (2021, March 8). 5 Strategic Insights Set to Power the Femtech Market . Frost & Sullivan.
    7. Fernandez, M. (2020, March 3). Frost & Sullivan Defines Top Femtech Global Opportunities by 2024 . Frost & Sullivan.
    8. Bounemoura, H. (2019, October 21). “The forgotten digital ones”: Digital is “a universe designed, programmed and installed by men”, explains Isabelle Collet . 20 minutes.
    9. Women@Digital. (2020, December 15). What place for women in digital in 2020?
    10. Szerdahelyi, L. (2020, September 1). Interview with Isabelle Collet about her book The Forgotten of Digital . GEF Review (4), 128-132.
    11. Sebag, F. (2020, September 15). Economic and social performance of digital start-ups in France . EY.
    12. Boston Consulting Group. (2021, February). An increase in diversity in the creation and financing of startups but the legacy of the ecosystem still weighs .
    13. Das, R. (2019, September 24). Is Technology Pink? Investments in Femtech to Cross the $1.3 Billion Mark in 2020 . Forbes.
    14. Gellman, L. (2017, March 19). Ida Tin's Battle to Build Clue, a Period-Tracking App . The New Yorker.
    15. Signoret, P. (2018, July 18). With Clue, Ida Tin's app, menstruation is under control . The world.