The femtech industry is valued at $28.77bn in 2022 and expected to rise to $58.87bn by 2027. So, what are female founders doing in this space, and how are the rest of us benefitting?
Words: Carolyn DeBarra
Tech products that help women with female-specific challenges – or ‘femtech’ – are having a moment. I’m talking periods, menopause, hormone-tracking, fertility. Unsurprisingly, it is women taking the lead on this, in a bid to make positive changes both in the workplace and at home.
‘Femtech’ refers to the diagnostic tools, products and services which use technology to solve women’s health problems. And according to market intelligence platform Reportlinker, the femtech industry was valued at $28.77bn in 2022 and expected to rise to $58.87bn by 2027.
Much of the tech developed by women focuses on areas of women’s health that have been traditionally ignored by the health tech space. The result? A wave of femtech options that have recognised the need for clever partnerships with workplaces to ensure women have a better experience and can continue career development.
Elanza Wellness is one platform working on bridging the gap between work and wellbeing.
Catherine Hendy and Brittany Hawkins co-founded the company after recognising a need for personalised fertility care. Their research showed that 37% of employees were experiencing severe stress due to fertility struggles, with a further one in four employees burned out as a result.
Catherine highlights that women are inspired to move into tech, as it creates real change in areas where it has long been needed.
“Over the past ten years, the move has been been fuelled by people seeing tech solving problems. So many of the issues we were seeing as women were not getting solved so we decided, through our own experiences, that there were gaps that needed to be filled,” Catherine says. “It’s the most organic form of tech to feel a problem and see the need for something to exist – then to build it.”
The benefits of providing health tech that can better support people undergoing fertility treatments for the workplace include reduced absenteeism and better retention rates, as well as happier employees who are less stressed and so tend to stick around longer.
“It can be a very stressful time in someone’s life and now that work and home life are more blended, people are finding it harder to separate the two.”
Catherine adds: “For employers, there is a very obvious value in reducing absenteeism especially for those who pay health coverage. If you reduce the stress early on then it reduces the likelihood of someone developing depression, anxiety or expensive health conditions which are often preventative.”
And then there’s Syrona Health who offer tailored care for women at the early, middle and late stages of their career.
Founders Chantelle Bell and Anya Roy developed the platform to offer help with pregnancy, endometriosis, PCOS, fertility and reproductive health. The platform aims to offer smart solutions for people to manage their health through education, support, gynae health specialists or clinical testings though their app.
When it comes to the menopause, Stella by Vira Health helps women in the workplace to develop treatment plans along with workplace sessions and coaching to help manage the symptoms.
Dr Rebecca Love, co-founder of Vira Health, says that the average age of both a new CEO and of entering menopause is 51.
“Menopause often hits at a critical career stage and there needs to be better care options if we want to seriously increase the number of women in leadership roles,” she says. “The Fawcett Society’s recent survey showed that one in 10 women have left a job due to menopause symptoms and eight out of 10 surveyed felt their workplace isn’t doing enough to help them.”
“This isn’t going to change without innovations in technology – which didn’t seem to be coming from traditional healthcare companies. The Stella app fills a gap in the care pathway gap for menopause management with evidence-based, tailored lifestyle and behaviour change and ongoing support.”
Stella’s internal research has shown that 80% of those who completed their plan felt better, with 75% of women reporting improved symptoms.
“We believe high-quality menopause care is a major step in the right direction. Menopause is a complex and unique experience with different symptom combinations, frequency and severity. People downloading Stella tell our care team that they are overwhelmed, feel out of control and are less able to juggle home and work like they used to.”
The future of workplace care is moving towards allowing employees to more easily manage their health. Apps like Stella can offer a convenient way to do this through the tap of a phone screen.
Dr Love says: “Workplaces understand that navigating the health system is challenging and many have provided private healthcare for quite some time. There is a gradual realisation that apps are a convenient way for employees to manage their health in their own time and when they need it most.”