Original Article by Aileen Lalor, NUVO Magazine, September 23, 2022
A boom in technology for women is good for everyone.
In 2014, Apple released its first Health app to much fanfare. It was designed to help people monitor things like weight, height, and sodium intake: “all of your metrics that you’re most interested in,” Apple exec Craig Federighi told The Verge at the time. And yet one basic metric that billions of people monitor regularly wasn’t included: periods.
The brand introduced menstrual tracking the following year, and its latest watch launch includes souped-up features like a temperature sensor that can help monitor ovulation. Period tracking has also been criticized recently, thanks to concerns about privacy following Roe vs. Wade. But the initial omission came as no surprise to many people who menstruate—and those who are trying to develop products that address their needs.
“It’s 50 per cent of the population, and yet again and again and again I speak to investors who say my company’s specialism is niche,” says Rachel Bartholomew, founder of Hyivy Health, which makes a device to improve pelvic-floor health. She’s also the founder of Femtech Canada. “There’s historically been no focus on women’s health. Our seatbelts are tested on men, our heart attack symptoms are defined by how they present in men. There’s a lack of funding, research capabilities, and resources in companies, and not enough people thinking through the lens of women.” Her own product is a perfect example of this. She says even doctors often don’t understand the nuances of pelvic health and will recommend Kegel exercises when in certain situations they could do more harm than good.
A lack of funding for women’s health-focused research and technology is largely because venture-capital investors are predominantly men. Generally they don’t invest in women-led businesses—just 2.3 per cent of funding went in that direction in 2020. Bartholomew points out that when she goes into a pitch meeting for her Hyivy device, she tells her personal story (she had cervical cancer and has vulval cancer) to connect with investors and help them understand why her product is necessary.
“There have been articles about how women have to tell those personal stories so they can be taken seriously, when men wouldn’t need to do that,” she says. “That sucks. It all sucks. But at the same time, it’s the game. Yes, it sucks that I have to use my cancer story as a way to unlock this. At the same time, the men in the room don’t understand any of it. They don’t understand the LGBTQ+ community. They’re 10,000 years behind. If they’re just starting to latch on to the idea that femtech is a hot space, why not leverage it?”
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Hyivy Health is on a mission to provide a lifetime value to folx who are on a journey to a better quality of life, one pelvic floor at a time.
Femtech Canada is operated by Innovation Factory. Innovation Factory is a business accelerator, dedicated to helping businesses launch, scale, and succeed. Learn more about FemTech Canada.