Femtech Is Finally One of the Cool Kids

This week in Pedersen's POV, our senior editor opines on the rising interest in femtech, and why it matters.

Amanda Pedersen

June 24, 2024

3 Min Read
Pedersen's POV graphic featuring headshot of MD+DI Senior Editor Amanda Pedersen for her weekly opinion column.

Femtech, a term coined by Ida Tin in 2016 to describe health technologies designed specifically for women, is finally one of the cool kids in medtech.

Here at MD+DI, we’ve been tracking the growing interest in the space and noting how the concept of femtech no longer applies just to reproductive and maternal health technologies. Now, the term is expanding to cover any health technology designed to address issues that impact women differently or disproportionally than men.

While it has been encouraging to see a growing interest in femtech within medtech circles, I was surprised a couple weeks ago to hear a stand-up comedian talk about women’s health during her show.

“They just ... in 2022, they finally, in the medical field, they finally started studying the [clitoris],” Reena Calm said during her recent show in my hometown, Galesburg, IL. “Like, where have you been? They just started looking into this thing. I mean, it must have been in the book. Maybe they couldn’t find the page? I don’t know, that seems crazy.”

Calm was likely referring to the 2022 study conducted at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in which researchers revealed they approximated, for the first time ever, the number of nerve fibers in the human clitoris that are responsible for sexual pleasure. The penis, on the other hand, has been extensively studied by medical researchers.

“The general story of the clitoris is that it appears to have been lost and found throughout history,” Rachel E. Gross, a science journalist and author of Vagina Obscura, a book that explores how science has long viewed the female body with a narrow focus on reproduction and how that’s changing, told the Scientific American in 2022 after the OHSU study was published.

But acknowledging women’s health issues and the burgeoning femtech space is only the beginning. Sure, it’s trendy to talk about femtech now, but what about barriers to women’s health in terms of reimbursement, health equity, and access? Finding a medical specialist who genuinely understands how certain healthcare issues impact women differently – and how those differences impact the diagnosis and treatment of such issues – is no small feat today.

“Women’s healthcare feels like they’re fixing all the planes, you know, to make the planes fly higher and last longer, go farther, but nobody cares that the airport is on fire,” Calm quipped.

Despite the progress made in recent years to break down barriers and make femtech a recognized, important part of the medical technology landscape, any femtech entrepreneur will quickly acknowledge the hurdles they continue to face.

As Spencer Chen, one of my colleagues on Design News, an MD+DI sister publication, wrote last year, femtech has traditionally faced the misconception that women’s health issues are mental, rather than physical.

“Current health systems don’t allow women to be in touch with their bodies,” said Michele Wispelwey, co-founder and COO at Femgevity, a digital telemedicine platform for women.

At Sensors Converge last year, Wispelwey discussed the issue of libido loss in women. “There is a lack of knowledge and education, and most of the treatments have been designed for men,” she said.

The lack of understanding of women’s health issues has also been a barrier to funding femtech companies.

“When pitching for funding, men do not understand the depth of the problem,” said Kristina Cahojova, founder and CEO at Kegg, a femtech company that has developed a fertility tracker to measure changes in electrolyte levels to help monitor fertility cycles. “When we received funding from women-dominated  groups, we opened eyes. People started to understand vaginal function problems. Once people saw we got funding, they started to realize the magnitude of the issue."

Educating the venture capital community on the importance of femtech products and services could go a long way toward leveling the playing field. But real change will only occur once the broader healthcare industry gets on board and begins to accept that several medical conditions do impact women differently than men.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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