The first global virtual conference about FemTechFollow article
The FemTech Conference organised by Women of Wearables celebrates the advancement of new products and technologies in women's health as well as discussing the importance of inclusion and diversity in the FemTech industry.
My name is Monica and I’ve just finished my second year studying civil engineering at the University of Glasgow. I am part of a society called FemEng at University and through it I got the opportunity to attend the online conference that was held by Women of Wearables last week.
FemEng is a student network that aims to tackle gender disparity within engineering from the younger generation to industry professionals. FemEng focuses on a lot of areas including outreach work with schools, networking events with industry professionals, social activities and international collaborations.
The FemTech conference hosted by Women of Wearables last week was very eye opening, educational and I truly benefited from it. Today, I’ll share some of my key takeaways from the conference and why I found it to be such an invaluable experience.
The conference began discussing the importance of privacy and securing people’s data to ensure that there are no breaches of privacy. Big companies like Facebook have been found to sell data to third parties for profit, making people sceptical about how much personal information they should be sharing. Apps such as Clue are doing a great job in running this app that tailors the settings to the user’s needs without asking too much from them. They adhere to GDPR laws and keep your information very private without selling to third parties for their own benefit. I learnt a lot from this panel and thought it was appropriate in a world where we feel more controlled than ever before and our personal data is at stake.
The second panel was about ‘Designing Products to Suit (And Fit) A Modern Woman’s Needs’ and there were so many companies that I hadn’t heard of before. Each start- up looked at the gap in the market to make a product that could help women in their daily life. Many of these women were inspired by their own stories to start their own brand. In Kristy Chong’s case, she started ModiBodi with a mission to create underwear that was designed for heavy discharge or bladder leaks. This sustainable Australian brand helps with sweat and smell as it is very breathable meaning that moisture is drawn away from the vagina fighting bacteria and pH imbalances. Her idea has praised by so many women worldwide who go through similar things daily; accommodating a much larger audience. She saw the gap in the market and took the opportunity!
A lot of companies are still dominated by a large male percentage in leadership positions, but this needs to change as they can’t get a balanced view on everyone’s needs. Something that was mentioned continuously throughout the conference was this idea that when women propose a new product idea for women to men, many feel that they were targeting a niche market. More than 50% of the population are women so creating a product that is targeted at women doesn’t mean it’s targeting a niche market.
Intimina, another company which you might have come across before, spoke about the design of their menstrual cups and their idea was to create a product that helps connectivity and mobility. I think that more women nowadays should start leaning more towards using menstrual cups as they are a much more sustainable, eco-friendly and a toxin free alternative.
A very important point that was mentioned was that education is crucial for change and therefore sex education in primary and high schools should be improved. I remember when I was in primary school, the boys got told to step out of the room so that adults could talk to us girls about periods and what happens when you bleed. This is where the problem lies! Girls and boys should learn about each other’s bodies to encourage a more inclusive approach to education.
The following panel focused on where companies want to invest. A focus for investment was investing in companies that help both maternity and paternity leave and services that help women who have just given birth. Another main focus was investing in companies that help women with menopause and I think this is where the money should be going. The speakers kindly gave advice about starting your own company and ways to do this so I’ll share some of those with you: listen to your customers rather than assuming what their needs are, make your product costumer specific, figure out your purpose and find dorm room funds to help you financially.
An app that was mentioned in the panel and that I want to share with you is ‘Peanut’. This app connects women across fertility and motherhood making them feel more supported and guided by their community members. They are newly releasing more menopause features to help more women. It is such a positive and uplifting community where women can talk about everything and anything in a very safe space.
A lot of very fascinating topics and issues that should be spoken about more publicly were brought up. Among these issues lies the gender gap in medical research, most drugs are being tested on white men and these same drugs are given to Black women or POC women who have very different body compositions. More research and studies should be done on a more diverse group to encompass a wider customer range.
Another issue was that many people are oblivious to the fact that fertility is not just a woman’s issue and it should be discussed very openly. Nobody should feel shamed because they can menstruate, and therefore education is key to raise awareness.
Lastly, sexual wellness is very much still a ‘taboo’ subject in business and venture capital and that needs to change! We must distance ourselves from the word 'taboo' and speak about sexual wellness more publicly. How can we come up with new technologies and progress if businesses are not willing to openly discuss sexual wellness?
Overall, I found the conference extremely valuable to learn more about the importance of FemTech in our everyday lives and to understand what needs to change within the FemTech industry.