This year, UN Women and the UN are celebrating International Women’s Day under the theme: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”.
Rarely is any UN slogan so true to my actual work. At Clue, our Co-Founder, Ida Tin, coined the term Femtech—because less than ten years ago, she needed to invent a word for the category of self-serve technology designed specifically to support the health and well-being of women.
Clue users often tell us: ‘Clue feels like it has been designed by women’. Note, we are not particularly ‘fem’—in fact we’re gender-neutral wherever we can be. We’re not pink, or sentimental, or many of the other things that stereotypically code consumer goods as ‘female’. These labels may help companies target customers and charge a pink tax, but they are not actually what make women feel seen.
Instead, I believe our users recognize, on the other side of the technology, human creators who know the lived experience—the experience of being a person, not just a consumer or a patient, not just a “girl”, “mom” or “lady”.
A person who may want to explore their biology as an individual, who longs for real empathy for whatever it is they’re going through, and who does not need to be met by assertions about their gender identity. The giveaways may be subtle, they may be hard to articulate, but they all add up to that feeling that Clue is not made with a male gaze. And that’s exciting, because so few tech products are not borne in the male life experience of their creators.
I also believe there is another dimension to this, the question of who the company itself is, across the organization and particularly at the management level. There is a craft to great product development, and there are many great male designers, product people and engineers (we employ some of them!). But beyond the product, there is also a palpable perspective embedded in the culture and identity of an organization, and how it does business.
At all levels of Clue, we identify with our community. They are not just an under-served market, consumers who make the most healthcare spending decisions. We are building things for our friends, our sisters, our kids, ourselves—often, our former selves (that article we wish we’d read, that experience we wish we’d tracked).
The standard of care is intuitively high because our own skin’s in the game.
I’m only going to permit uses of Clue data that I am comfortable with for myself, that I can explain to my daughters. There is literally no price anyone could pay that would tempt me to hand over someone’s reproductive health data to be used against them.
Since Ida coined the term Femtech, a lot of companies have jumped on the bandwagon. The industry has grown to a category heading towards $1 trillion, and there has been a huge crop of new products serving women with a range of technologies, from fanciful cycle astrology to improved medical products for widespread pain points, like pelvic floor issues post-childbirth. By and large, this is a great thing—an under-innovated field, and there are many needs to still be met.
So let’s make sure innovation and technology do, in fact, serve gender equality. A great place to start is by backing female entrepreneurs and female-led teams.
It may be impossible to generalize exactly how their products, brands, and business models will differ from more male inventions. We don’t have to. It’s enough that it seems likely they will be different, and that more of them is going to be a good thing for gender equality.