Global Similarities, Local Nuances
At StrongHer Ventures, we believe that while a majority of women’s issues are common globally, they are shaped by local nuances.
Influenced by these local nuances, women are at different stages of the production and consumption cycle globally. Based on the maturity of the local ecosystem and local technology, innovative business models are emerging to reflect the needs and choices of women.
Below we highlight some areas where women have faced challenges globally — Women’s Health, Inclusive Finance, Women at Work/Care and Education, and show how local developments have played a role in addressing challenges around women’s health differently.
● Women’s health has been neglected globally in the past and the gender health gap continues to be significant. Less than 2.5% of publicly funded research in the UK is dedicated solely to reproductive health despite the data suggesting that almost a third of British women suffer from reproductive or gynecological health problems. What is interesting is that this research is often subject to gender bias. There are five fold more studies about erectile dysfunction, which affects only 19% of men than premenstrual syndrome, which affects 90% of women.
Work for Women
● In the US, more than 75% of all caregivers are female, meaning that in addition to juggling the demands of work, a large portion of women are also juggling the demands of caring for a loved one. This unpaid labor that women do outside of the workforce often results in a career break that has had both short-term and long-term effects.
● In fact, roughly 31% of women who took a career break after having kids said they didn’t want to but had to because of a lack of workplace flexibility, according to a 2019 FlexJobs survey of more than 2,000 women with children under 18.
● Of those same women, 70% said it was difficult for them to re-enter the workforce after taking time off. When calculating lost wages, future wage growth and lost retirement and social security contributions, a woman who takes a three-year break on a $50,000 salary could lose more than $500,000 over the course of her career, according to a MarketWatch study.
● The way in which we work has remained largely unchanged since the early 1900’s. Many organizations cling to the 9–5 template based on the breadwinner-homemaker model which is outdated since women have joined the workforce, a number that is a fraction of its potential due to archaic rules regarding presenteeism and prejudices. Female employees have left the workforce when faced between the choice of their families welfare and work progression. In countries like India, the female labor force participation ratio stands at a woeful 25% with the highest unemployment observed amongst the most qualified women.
● In response to shareholder and government pressure, many corporations have seemingly introduced policies that help women including part-time work and parental leave. Research shows that this has not been without its problems. Globally, working women have faced severe backlash from colleagues and setbacks to career progression when trying to avail themselves of these policies.
● Women are underrepresented in STEM related professions worldwide. In the future 11% of the jobs currently held by women are at risk of elimination as a result of digital technologies — a higher percentage than for jobs held by men.
● Though STEM experts may be at a distinct advantage in tomorrow’s workforce, most of them are men. Women hold 56% of university degrees overall, but just 36% of STEM degrees, and they make up only 25% of the STEM workforce. Just 22% of AI professionals and 12% of machine-learning experts are women, according to a WEF-LinkedIn study.
● Technology can even keep women from getting the job in the first place; there’s evidence AI algorithms in talent management, for example, have generated results biased against female recruits as a result of a cumulative bias contained in the data.
Inclusive Finance for Women
● Globally, women have fewer savings and invest less than men. Additionally, in India there is a much higher level of inactivity on the accounts held by women. Recognizing this trend companies are emerging to provide women with tools for financial planning, investing and banking.
● Insurtech is an area that is emerging to solve health and life insurance needs of women given that women are not insured adequately globally coupled with the fact that there is a rising trend of increasing self employment amongst women.
● Microcredit companies are emerging to provide loans to small business holders, a large proportion of whom are women.
● While a majority of women’s issues are common globally, the manner in which they are addressed is shaped by the local norms, culture and state of economic and technological development in their countries.
● The above mentioned factors have also led to women being at different stages in their awareness and accessibility to products. They are at different stages of the consumption cycle globally for different products.
Women’s Health — Digital Technologies To Address A Neglected Area
● Femtech products are designed to support, improve and promote women’s health and wellness, an area that has been neglected in the past. It is poised at the confluence of increasing women’s health awareness and maturation and reach of digital technologies. Over 200 startups and 3000 app-based women’s health products have emerged globally to address key women’s health issues This is a game changer for women’s health issues that have been largely overlooked to date. These startups address key women’s health issues such as reproductive health, fertility solutions, surrogacy, pre and postnatal care, which are common to all women globally.
● While women’s health issues are shared globally, countries have experienced different rates of innovation and adoption based on differing needs and levels of awareness amongst women. Most of the production and consumption of Femtech products has taken place in the US given its increasingly sophisticated base of women consumers who have access to technology and a willingness to embrace Femtech solutions. While the US is clearly in the lead, with companies like NURX, Family First, Maven and Kindbody, women consumers in Europe, UK and India are also increasingly aware and launching different products playing to their own local strengths. In India, companies such as Nirmai, a low cost affordable breast cancer screening company has emerged. Nirmai uses India’s distinct lead in the use of frugal innovative techniques to its advantage.
● Today Femtech is evolving primarily in the western world to address broader women’s health issues beyond reproductive health, such as heart diseases, pain management and diabetes that affect women’s physiology differently. We expect countries like India will follow this trend in the near future using technologies and solutions that reflect their competitive advantage.
The technologies and business models that are emerging to satisfy the needs of the women consumers, are a reflection of the choices of these women consumers, and the development of the local ecosystem both in terms of awareness and social development and the state of technological development in the ecosystem.