Femtech: first coined in 2016, the term refers to a sector within the technology industry that has since seen a lot of growth. But what is it, and what is it used for?

If you are someone who has periods, chances are you’ve downloaded a period-tracking app, such as Clue, to keep an eye on your symptoms throughout the month and to get an idea of when your period is due to start.

If you have children or are looking to conceive, maybe you have used OvuSense or other fertility and ovulation trackers, pregnancy trackers like Velmio or a smart breast pump such as that developed by Elvie.

From apps allowing users to set up monthly tampon subscriptions to products such as period underwear – DAME, Callaly and Thinx to name just a few – and health advice services, “femtech” is a catch-all term for products aimed towards women (and those with female anatomy).

Breaking taboos

Historically, the general public and investors alike have tended to shy away from discussing periods. Even adverts for feminine products often skirt around the very topic they are advertising for. Any talk of what actually happens during a period is avoided. These adverts will even go as far as using blue paint rather than red when demonstrating how products work.

Adverts for feminine products will often use blue paint rather than red

In the past, this has caused many of us to be ashamed of talking candidly about the symptoms we experience on a monthly basis. This in turn can lead to issues such as infertility and conditions like endometriosis to go undiagnosed.

However, the emergence of these apps in the femtech sector is changing things. We are being led to become more comfortable with our own bodies, helping us identify more easily when something is “wrong”.

Not only does this empower women to better track their health, but it also proves to them that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Especially when it comes to taking care of their bodies.

Empowering female-led startups

92% of femtech startups were founded and are led by women

GlobalNewswire reported that 92% of femtech startups were founded and are led by women. This demonstrates just how valuable the perspective of women for women is in the tech world.

And even more so if we’re going to tackle some of the biggest challenges impacting us.

Compared to other sectors, this is an astounding number of female-directed companies. It helps to diversify the gender makeup of those in power in the technology industry – where decision-making power most often lies in the hands of men.

With much of this technology being developed by women for women, this is not only a win for gender equality. It also means that the people who are providing solutions are those who truly understand the health issues that women face.

Put simply, it allows the concerns that women have to be seen and addressed by someone with similar experiences.

At the forefront of telehealth

In the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people were sequestered in their houses, only leaving when absolutely necessary in order to help slow the spread of the virus.

During the lockdowns, this meant that many turned to subscription services to buy their period products or order medication rather than popping to the pharmacy. Not only was this invaluable during the pandemic, but it is also a useful service for those with reduced mobility who may find it hard to get to the shops regularly.

Often, disability issues are not accounted for when it comes to technology. So, it’s promising to hear that these innovations are making a positive impact in terms of telehealth. This technology may enable those with disabilities to access a similar level of care as their able-bodied counterparts.

Obviously, there is still a long way to go. But it is encouraging that certain forms of femtech have succeeded in improving the quality of life for many who have historically been marginalised by society.

The role of language in femtech

Femtech solutions should, by their nature, have universal applications. When a company plans to provide these products to new user groups across a wider range of markets, there are many aspects to consider.

Among the most important are the reasons for them to carefully vet and translate their content:

  • Women have the right to access health information in a language they understand and feel comfortable with.
  • In many countries, the level of education is still not the same for women as it is for men. Therefore, any products available only in a non-native language may be a barrier to women who wish to use them.
  • These are personal, often private, matters that you might only discuss with your closest circle or your doctor. So that these products are more relatable and confidence-inspiring, the right tone of voice needs to be translated.
  • These are important matters that concern your health. Consequently, terminology must be translated correctly so as not to be confusing or misleading.

Language service providers (LSP) have a natural affinity with femtech companies. Many LSPs are female-led and they have a great percentage of highly educated female staff who work competently with technology. Many of our linguists and project managers are fans of such tech solutions and are keen to make them accessible to a wider audience.

All in all, this is clearly just the start when it comes to the potential growth of femtech. The femtech sector has already made so much headway, with hundreds of millions of dollars invested in femtech within just the last decade. With this, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot more to come – and likely sooner rather than later.

It will certainly be interesting to see in what ways the industry continues to adapt and develop as it expands into new niches and international markets.

Femtech, Life sciences, Software localisation