The rise of FemTech

The rise of FemTech

Rebecca Graham

Rebecca Graham

The term ‘FemTech’ was coined by Ida Tin in 2016 (Co-Founder of Clue), just eight years ago. As I write this, my Word Document doesn’t even recognise the word, giving it a firm underscore in red. So, safe to say it’s pretty new to the scene. But, like every different flavour of technology, it did not just spawn out of thin air and its roots go back a long way. In the 1800s, for instance, women began using diaphragms for contraception. And prior to this, whilst maybe the word ‘tech’ can’t be applied, there was certainly a lot of – shall we say – ‘creativity’ in how women prevented pregnancy, or encouraged it.

But today, we’re in the midst of a revolution – albeit a quiet one – of technology catered solely to women. And this revolution is broadening the conversation beyond contraception and conception. Apps like Flo, Clue and Natural Cycles all seek to help women understand their menstrual cycles and how they impact hormones, moods and energy levels. There are also mental health apps geared predominantly towards women. In turn, all of this is helping women to understand how key things like sleep, performance (whether at work or in the gym), and concentration can have peaks and troughs – bringing a new level of understanding to how the female body works. This is knowledge that we can then apply directly to how we make plans and live our lives. There’s even finance apps targeted solely at women, to help close the gap on financial literacy and confidence – straddling both the FemTech and FinTech spaces.

Of course, this industry is faced with challenges. Already, women-led startups receive just 3% of VC funding. As we can safely assume that the vast majority of FemTechs will have female leaders, it’s likely this industry will be facing an uphill battle for funding. Some may also perceive the entire notion of ‘FemTech’ negatively, seeing it as exclusive – despite it needing to be exclusive by its very nature. Finally, as these apps are rarely free, some may see it as just another example of the ‘pink tax’. The pink tax is the theory that products sold to women are marked up at a higher price – if you were to Google shampoo for men and then shampoo for women, for instance, there’s a noticeable difference in the average price. Finally, there’s also significant data privacy concerns with period-tracking apps, with plenty of room for negative press if things go wrong.

In the face of all these challenges, FemTechs need to market themselves cleverly and carefully. Their communications strategies need to take into account women (as their customers), investors (as their source of funding) and also the media (whose choice words can significantly impact their reputations). Getting this balance right and knowing what conversations to join, when and how, is going to be crucial for success.

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