Senior Associate, Alice Kim, on Key Trends She’s Seeing in Women’s Health

Alice Kim — July 6, 2023

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Some facts about women and women’s health that every­one should know:

  1. Women make up approx­i­mate­ly half of the pop­u­la­tion of the Unit­ed States.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Women’s health con­di­tions are mis­di­ag­nosed at 30% high­er rates than men.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 alice@groundforcecapital.com.

 

Sources:

  1. U.S. Cen­sus Bureau, as of 2022.
  2. U.S. Cen­sus Bureau, per­cent of female pop­u­la­tion in civil­ian labor force, age 16+ years, 2017 – 2021.
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescontentmarketing/2019/05/13/20-facts-and-figures-to-know-when-marketing-to-women/?sh=18a90e8f1297.
  4. https://hitconsultant.net/2023/02/07/femtech-womens-health-technology-trends-2023/.
  5. “Gen­der stud­ies in prod­uct devel­op­ment: His­tor­i­cal overview”, U.S. Food & Drug Admin­is­tra­tion, updat­ed Feb­ru­ary 16, 2018.
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1551714422000441?via%3Dihub.
  7. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tias-top-5-predictions-womens-health-2023-carolyn-witte/.
  8. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare/our-insights/unlocking-opportunities-in-womens-healthcare#/.
  9. Car­o­line Cri­a­do Perez, Invis­i­ble Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Lon­don: Pen­guin Ran­dom House, 2019, p. 226.
  10. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/womens-health-market.
  11. 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.
  12. Deb Gor­don, “73% of women don’t treat their menopause symp­toms, new sur­vey shows,” Forbes, July 13, 2021.
  13. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0011/8590/6751/files/Bonafide_State_of_Menopause.pdf?v=1624280664.
  14. https://marketresearch.biz/report/complementary-and-alternative-medicine-market/.
  15. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare/our-insights/the-dawn-of-the-femtech-revolution.

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