When it comes to technology supporting women, many tools are lacking. But, recently, there has been an influx in technology and biotech that is filling in some of these gaps.
While this growing number of biotechnologies is good news, there’s a catch—much of this technology only targets women who are fertile. Products for managing period pain and periods, birth control, contraception support, and so much more are targeted to help this demographic.
But what about menopausal and postmenopausal women?
There’s this idea floating around that once a woman hits menopause, she is not as useful to society. The same line of thought exists for men—aging bodies are deemed to be less valuable since they cannot contribute as intensely to the labor workforce as younger bodies.
As a physician, I feel that we are remiss to not include menopausal and postmenopausal women in research efforts and biotechnological development.
This article will dive into this previously unexplored topic and suggest possible solutions to move forward.
Understanding Investments in Women: Fertile Women vs. Menopausal
One easy way to understand this gap in biotechnology is to look at investment capital. Biotechnology is provided funding for ideas that are valuable and this gives them the space, time, and resources to research new products and offer a solution.
Investment capital is low for women in general.
Some sources look at this issue from the standpoint of gender in biotechnology companies. Decision-makers in key biotech companies skew toward men; start-ups with female founders and management team members seem to be consistently underfunded.
It’s natural that women will tend to think up innovative ideas that solve female-centric problems, but this is not always the case. Data science also helps investors to decide where to put their money.
In fact, investors look at three primary factors when considering funding:
- Trust in the underlying data and science.
- Trust in the future market.
- Trust in the management team.
Other studies have historically identified that the number of women interested and involved in biotech is not a problem. There is a vast pool of biology PhD students who are female (in fact, half of all students are reportedly female), and 25-30% of biology faculty are female as well. But getting women in the boardroom seems to be part of the problem.
This harkens back to a study done by Harvey Lodish and Nancy Hopkins over at Harvard Business School, when they realized that out of the 100 names of scientists who had been funded by a local venture capitalist group, 99 were men.
So is this another case of the good ol’ boys club?
Could be. Lodish and Hopkins believe that women are not being asked into the boardrooms of many of the leading biotechnology companies. And without their key insight, women are not being asked to solve many of the problems specific to women.
Biotech Solutions for Women of All Ages
Biotechnology is responsible for solving some of the world’s most complex medical problems. From diagnostic tests that keep the blood supply safe from AIDS viruses to home pregnancy tests, biotechnology has been behind it all.
But once again, these numbers are skewed based on gender. Companies led by women are still underfunded, and this means that many of the innovative ideas that come from women for the benefit of underrepresented women will have to come from private companies that put up their own money. Or perhaps they find funding through other means. In general, while these success stories might play out, they often take longer and have less of an impact.
Think about a biotech entrepreneur with an idea to improve hormone medication for menopausal women. Biotech investors aren’t necessarily chomping at the bit to fund this issue because a) women who hit menopausal aren’t really talked about all that much and b) the reward for solving this issue does not seem to be extremely high.
All this is despite the fact that many women consider their switch into menopause to be life-altering. We know of the common symptoms of menopause, which include hot flashes, night sweats, and discomfort during sex.
But menopause can have a profound impact on a women’s daily life. She might have trouble sleeping, low moods, memory issues, concentration issues or anxiety, or all of the above, and still, she is expected to fit some roles of the doting mother or grandmother or even her job expectations at work.
Yes, so while women are regularly going through their hormonal shifts, they are still expected to go to work. This means period shifts and menopausal shifts.
Why Should We Look at All Women in Biotech
So what happens when we look at women?
In general, a more diverse set of biotechnology research and tools can balance out the products and services available for all genders. Expectations for work are still there for women, no matter what their hormones are doing, and in ways, this shuts them out from valuable positions in society and in companies.
By providing biotechnological advancements for women, it makes their life easier and they are able to better contribute to society. Menopausal and postmenopausal women are already contributing to society, so investing in their well-being could improve the roles that they already have, improve their well-being, and make life easier for them.
Not everything needs to be about improving for societal contribution.
Why not look to women of all ages, regardless of their fertility health, and seek ways to improve their well-being. Are we not past the day when women are still stuck at home or begging to be in the boardrooms? Or are we opening up our doors to these women, their innovative ideas, and their unique viewpoints? Medical doctors can step up and fill this role as clinical champions.
It’s time for a change, and investing in women-led biotech companies and women-centric biotech developments is one way to make this change.