Health Startups & the "Bikini Medicine" Problem

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Halle Tecco, founder of Rock Health, hosted a fantastic lunch in April for women entrepreneurs to discuss innovation and opportunity in reproductive health. One of the common themes that emerged in the discussion was the way startups focused on women's health are often dismissed as "niche" markets or "bikini medicine" by investors. This in a segment covering 51% of the global population. And, in the fertility sector alone, easily as many as 1 in 7 US women and a $4 billion market.

How do we work on this? First, more lunches and meetings like the one Halle hosted. There are incredible women working in health technology today who deserve recognition. Second, more women in health technology and our associated VC landscape in general. Rock Health provides shocking data on this gap:

  • Despite making up more than half the healthcare workforce, women represent only 21% of executives and 21% of board members at Fortune 500 healthcare companies.
  • There’s only one woman CEO of a Fortune 500 healthcare company.
  • Women make up only 6% of digital health CEOs funded in the last four years.
  • Women represent only 10% of partners, those responsible for making final investment decisions, in 148 VC firms that invest in digital health.

At every stage of innovation, simply having more women's voices involved could help bring this sector from "bikini" to the next "boom."