The three pillars of FemTech success: #1 Inclusivity

Welcome to the first in a series of articles outlining the three pillars of our FemTech philosophy: inclusion, experience-led design, and the smart integration of technology. Here, we start with inclusion, a crucial topic for success in innovation.  

While there are initiatives to ensure gender diversity in the boardroom, there’s rarely the same in product development. This need for equilibrium has historically often been overlooked in market research and product testing, resulting in design that misses a proportion of end-users. For example, it wasn’t until 2011 that female crash test dummies were introduced in the US.

There are three steps to achieving inclusivity in end-to-end innovation:

  • Understand the problem 
  • Understand the context
  • Understand the ecosystem

Understand the problem

We use an Insights for Innovation approach underpinned by the ‘jobs to be done’ perspective. This focuses on understanding a task or ‘job’ independently of any existing solutions used to achieve it. This means we start with the problem rather than the solution. For example, our starting question is: ‘What needs might a couple have when trying for a baby?’ (the jobs), rather than ‘How can we design a biometrics tracker to gauge fertility?’ (a solution).

This solution-agnostic approach involves defining a ‘job’ in terms of the user’s functional, emotional, and social needs, for example:

  • ­The functional need to ‘know when I’m ovulating’
  • ­The emotional need to ‘feel like conception is a natural process’

An excellent example of a solution that has fulfilled these needs is Inne. This fertility monitoring system uses saliva to detect ovulation. Saliva analysis can help women increase the chance of falling pregnant (functional need) by identifying the fertile window each month. It offers clear feedback to reduce anxiety around the results (emotional need) and comes in a discreet format, allowing women to keep their fertility journey private, if they wish to.

Understand the context

FemTech teams must take research beyond quantitative surveys to truly have a clear idea of a woman’s needs. This requires in-depth qualitative interviews to understand women as part of a contextual system. This recognizes that women don’t buy a product because of who they are; no two women are the same; the same person can have different needs in different contexts.

We believe the team behind the breastmilk expresser Elvie Pump took this approach by considering the context of when it would be used, for example, while running after a child or in the workplace. This revealed needs far beyond extracting milk.

Historically, breast pumps have been cumbersome and noisy, with long tubes that significantly restrict movement. On the other hand, Elvie Pump’s design is hands-free, silent, cordless, and easy to clean. By addressing context, the design became a market leader in the US and UK.


Inclusivity, experience-led design, and the smart integration of technology

Understand the ecosystem

Understanding the ‘job to be done’ as part of an ecosystem helps multi-disciplinary teams consider the experience of other key stakeholders.

Take the example of contraception; a heterosexual couple might have the same emotional need to ‘feel like contraception is natural’. However, to one, it could mean hormone-free cream; to the other, it might mean no physical intervention at all (for example, relying on a fertility monitor). Addressing the need from different perspectives ensures the solution is meaningful, intuitive, and enjoyable for everyone it impacts.

The Maven Clinic is a telehealth platform that offers fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and family care services. It caters to what would largely be considered female needs. However, 30% of its members are men. Founder Kate Ryder is careful not to exclude them when she talks about the platform. Rather than referring to Maven Clinic as FemTech, she defines her mission in terms of “people” to ensure that all members feel included.

As these examples show, inclusivity is an essential ingredient of FemTech success. The following articles in our series will cover why experience-led design and the smart integration of technology are equally important.

To continue the conversation, get in touch:


Find the authors on LinkedIn:

Jessica Platt

FemTech Lead and Associate Insights Researcher

Martha Hodgson

Senior Insights & Strategy Consultant