Senior Associate, Alice Kim, on Key Trends She’s Seeing in Women’s Health
Alice Kim — July 6, 2023
Some facts about women and women’s health that everyone should know:
- Women make up approximately half of the population of the United States.
- Women comprise of 60% of America’s workforce, make 70% – 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions, and are responsible for 70% of the healthcare-related choices in their families.
- Due to potential risk of birth defects, the FDA recommended in 1977 that premenopausal females be excluded from Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical studies. While this was revised in 1993, women are still being underrepresented: only 41% of trial participants from 2016 – 2019 were female.
- Women’s health conditions are misdiagnosed at 30% higher rates than men.
- Women often show symptoms of serious health conditions differently than men; in the event of a heart attack for instance, in addition to chest pain and discomfort, women can also experience other “atypical” symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea / vomiting and back / jaw pain.
- Despite reporting more severe levels, frequency, and lengths of pain, reports show that women’s symptoms are at times expressed as “emotional” and “psychosomatic,” leading to women being less likely to be treated for pain.
Despite the enormous role women play in our society, women’s health has historically been under-researched, under-funded, and under-discussed. However, this has been changing rapidly in recent years – no longer a “niche” category, women’s health is finally starting to receive the time, resources, and attention that is long overdue.
Women’s health is often thought of primarily as reproductive health, and while an important aspect, women’s health encompasses a much wider variety of topics. In addition to reproduction, female biology provides for a range of other gender-specific considerations, and also causes women to experience general health conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and osteoporosis) differently or disproportionately compared to men (see the example above on heart attacks, which results in women being more likely to die from heart attacks).
Partially fueled by the consequences of the pandemic, the women’s health space has been developing rapidly in recent years. We’ve witnessed a massive shift in the dialogue surrounding women’s healthcare needs fueled by celebrities like Davina McCall campaigning to end the stigma around menopause, transparent discourse on female health topics on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, the U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, government initiatives such as the FDA’s “Health of Women Program Strategic Plan” launched in 2022, and the Biden Administration’s stated prioritization of women’s health, among numerous others. Levels of education and awareness on women’s health are growing, and with this, there’s increasing demand for products and services that are better addressing the specific needs of today’s women.
Women’s health is estimated to be a $43B+ market and is projected to grow at a 5.4% CAGR through 2030. The combination of historical lack of advancement in the space and growing awareness of the unique differences between men’s and women’s physiology creates immense whitespace opportunity for leaders and entrepreneurs to bring to market innovative technologies, products, and services that can immensely improve women’s quality of lives. As a female investor, I’m so excited (both personally and professionally) to continue following this market, and while I’m constantly learning (and still have a lot to learn), I wanted to highlight some of the key trends that I’ve been seeing recently in women’s health:
1. De-stigmatizing taboo topics – No longer are women whispering when it comes to topics like menstruation, sexual wellness, and fertility. Driven by the popularity and accessibility of today’s social media platforms and a culture of transparency supported by modern media, celebrities, and influencers, historically “taboo” topics are becoming spoken about in casual daily conversation. For the younger generation in particular, this provides an opportunity for women to grow up in an environment that fosters open dialogue and allows them to feel comfortable at earlier ages to discuss their issues and seek solutions as needed. Stripping the shame and secrecy that previously surrounded these conversations will help continue uncovering the nuanced facets of women’s health and ensure that the full spectrum of women’s needs are being met.
2. Hormone health literacy – Not too long ago, it would have been notably more difficult to find women who could easily explain all four phases of their menstrual cycles or discuss in detail the role of progesterone, estrogen, and the many other hormones that play a crucial role within the female body. Today, knowledge on hormone health has become accessible and widespread, as can be illustrated through the number of views seen on #hormones (2.9B views) or #pcos (7.5B views) on TikTok. Women are realizing that their approximately 28-day hormone cycles have stark differences compared to men’s 24-hour hormone cycles and are ditching a one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness. From period trackers, cycle-syncing workouts, and hormone-balancing foods, women are increasingly seeking products and lifestyle changes that will support their unique timelines.
3. Menopause – Women spend more than a third of their lives in peri- or post-menopausal stages, and it’s predicted that ~1.2B women around the globe will be in these stages of their lives by 2030. About 73% of post-menopausal women experience hot flashes, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and other symptoms that significantly impair their quality of life, but only a quarter obtain treatment. In addition, many women don’t know how to identify or address symptoms of menopause (according to a survey, 45% of women didn’t know the difference between peri-menopause and menopause before experiencing symptoms), underlying the clear need to continue driving education and awareness. Some emerging businesses have begun to offer menopause-specific products to help women manage their individual experiences, and the market should expect see more of this as consumer knowledge on menopause continues to grow.
4. Embracing holistic approaches – Often dissatisfied with the traditional solutions of Western medicine, women have begun to broaden the definition of “health” to include a more holistic approach, taking into consideration not just diet and exercise, but also sleep, gut health, mental health, and other factors. As women are looking to understand how these various aspects are interconnected to impact their overall wellbeing, they’ve begun to turn to “alternative” approaches such as Ayurveda or naturopathic medicine to reach their goals. The Complementary and Alternative Medicine Market is expected to grow at a 3.2% CAGR to become a $114B market by 2032, driven by increasing demand for holistic healthcare and rising awareness of alternative methods. The combination of continued consumer interest with growing acceptance in mainstream medicine should result in ample whitespace for further innovation and growth in this area.
5. FemTech for personalized care – FemTech is a broad and diverse market with many potential applications, from maternal, menstrual, and sexual health to fertility, contraception, and general health conditions. The massive market opportunity and data-centric nature creates ample opportunities to disrupt the women’s healthcare space, including the ability to provide personalized solutions that advance health equity among both gender, racial, and socioeconomic lines. With the recent rise of telemedicine and advanced data collection processes in today’s healthcare system, women can start to expect more personalized care tailored to their unique needs, both on an individual level and on a sub-population level (such as for Black women, LGBTQ+ persons, and low- and middle-income communities). In addition, with the popularization of wearables and democratization of health data, both men and women are becoming more empowered to take charge of their healthcare in ways that specifically fit them.
At GroundForce Capital, we’re dedicated to supporting companies that are tackling the most pressing issues tied to human and planetary health – and women’s health is a key part of this mission. Investing in women’s health isn’t just investing in individual women; improving women’s health also impacts their families, communities, their country’s economies, and the future of society. While there’s been a lot of change in recent years, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to achieve gender parity and I’m excited to have the opportunity to support the founders and businesses that are driving this movement forward. If you found this post interesting or want to discuss more, I’d love to connect – feel free to reach out at email@example.com.
- U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2022.
- U.S. Census Bureau, percent of female population in civilian labor force, age 16+ years, 2017 – 2021.
- “Gender studies in product development: Historical overview”, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, updated February 16, 2018.
- Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, London: Penguin Random House, 2019, p. 226.
- Craig Best et al., “Prevalence of menopausal symptoms among mid-life women: Findings from electronic medical records,” BMC Women’s Health, December 2015, Volume 15, Number 1.
- Deb Gordon, “73% of women don’t treat their menopause symptoms, new survey shows,” Forbes, July 13, 2021.