Women’s Health as an Investment and Their Value

16298661_1091212851008373_7978367349692312767_nToday I sat in awe as I watched and listened to the musical- Beautiful, The Carol King Musical at the hippodrome theater in Baltimore, Maryland. The talent was amazing and the tail of Carol King, the intelligent lyricist, composer and singer was inspiring, a lady who skipped 2 grades in school.What an inspiring woman and what a great role model for all women, especially after reading the report that girls are less likely to identify their own gender as brilliant than boys are, even at age 5. One question is whether it’s the girls who need to change their thinking about innate intelligence.

Also reflect on Washington, D.C., Friday , December 20, where the 45th president was sworn into office. Reporters were fanned out across the U.S. Capitol, New York City and elsewhere to provide comprehensive coverage of Trump’s inauguration, and provided coverage of that night’s inaugural balls, the first family’s fashion and, of course, the historic first dance. A day after President Donald Trump was sworn into office, women descended on the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington. The Women’s March on Washington sent a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights and elsewhere. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us. If President Trump is as smart as his supporters say he is and he and his Cabinet should learn from the women and their message. Look at these maps showing the involvement both in the United States and around the world of women marching to bring awareness to their causes.

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What group makes up half the global population? Women. Who makes about 80 percent of health-care decisions for their families? Women do. Women also have different bodies and medical needs than men, and innovation in health-care technology for women requires financial investment.

Yet big investors tend to put money into solutions to problems that they can relate to. And most venture capitalists are male. By one account, only approximately 20 percent of VC firms funding early-stage biotech companies have any women’s-health-focused technologies represented in their portfolios at all. The top twenty VC firms most active in health care made upwards of 1,500 investments in the last decade, but only roughly 80 of those were in women’s health.

Aid programs that provide women opportunities to better their health, education, and well being have effects far beyond a single individual. A woman multiplies the impact of an investment made in her future by extending benefits to the world around her, creating a better life for her family and building a strong community.

  • 99% of maternal deaths occur in the developing world.
  • Adequate health care, a skilled birth attendant and emergency care help prevent maternal deaths.
  • 1 in 5 girls in developing countries who enroll in primary school never finish.
  • When 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3%.
  • 1 in 7 girls will marry before they are 15 in the developing world.
  • Girls who stay in school for seven or more years, marry four years later and have two fewer children.
  • Women make up nearly 52% of the global total of people living with HIV.
  • Current approaches to preventing mother-to-child HIV readmissions are 98% effective.
  • Women make up 43% of the agriculture labor force. However, women are less likely to own land, and own fewer amounts of land when they do.
  • When women have the same amount of land as men, there is over 10% increase in crop yields.
  • Women comprise only 18.9% of the world’s legislators.
  • Countries where women’s share of seats in political bodies is greater than 30% are more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic.

More female entrepreneurs and investors are focusing on largely unmet medical needs: their own.

Women are the health-care industry’s biggest customers, due in part to their need for reproductive care, and make 80 percent of the health-care decisions for their families. Tired of having their conditions misunderstood or dismissed as “bikini medicine,” they are starting up and investing in female-focused companies, many of them in digital health, a market valued at $55 billion in 2014, according to KPMG.

“Obviously women have unique health experiences that men don’t,” says Halle Tecco, who was a co-founder of venture-capital fund Rock Health and is now an adjunct professor for digital health at Columbia Business School. “It is a huge market.”

And therein lies the rub: More than 90 percent of investing partners at the top 100 VC firms are men, research by startup-tracker CrunchBase shows. People invest in ideas that they feel comfortable with, and that’s why women are leading the charge on female health, says Albert Wenger, a partner at Union Square Ventures in New York.

“There is a bias that results from the fact that a lot of venture investors are male,” Wenger says. “We are five white guys who are exhibit A in the non-diverse case. It’s just the reality of it.”

That’s changing, but slowly. Female health is attracting more investors of both sexes. Nine digital-health companies focused on women who raised $82 million through the third quarter of last year, up from $29 million in 2014, according to Rock Health, whose board and investment team are mostly female. One of them, Progyny Inc., raised $34 million from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and TPG Biotech.

That amount pales in comparison to the $4.5 billion that poured into digital-health companies overall. So women are once again trying to shrink the gap by investing in female-focused enterprises.

In April, Cindy Whitehead, who raised $100 million for Sprout Pharmaceuticals Inc. before it was bought by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. for $1 billion, started another company, The Pink Ceiling. It will make investments and do strategic consulting for companies working on women’s issues.

“It was an advantage for me to be a woman leading Sprout,” which made the first pill for low sexual desire, Whitehead, says. “Women shared their stories with me. We did a year of diligence and just by listening I had such a better appreciation of the devastation for women.”

Being a woman is less of a bonus when raising money for a women’s health business.

“I had to get past the locker-room jokes and giggles to get to a serious and frank scientific discussion” with potential investors, Whitehead says. She “adapted by understanding how fiercely I needed to come out of the gate with science.”

Wenger’s Union Square, an early backer of Twitter Inc., saw a clear need for Berlin-based Clue, which helps women track their menstrual and fertility cycles. Wenger says the business case was strong: More women are going to have easy access to a smartphone than to birth control, and that creates an opportunity to educate women about their bodies and contraceptives.

That pitch didn’t appeal to everyone, says Clue founder Ida Tin, whose company has raised $10 million and has 5 million users.

“One thing is understanding something intellectually, another thing is having that experience which is anchored in your body emotionally,” Tin says. “Sometimes people would say, ‘You know it’s really interesting but I can’t use the product myself. I only invest in products that I can use myself.’ And that’s of course the problem if all are male investors.”

The solution? More female investors. Tecco has invested in EverlyWell, a direct-to-consumer at-home testing business, and recently joined the advisory board at startup Celmatix, which uses data analysis and genomics to improve woman’s chances of conceiving. Women lead both companies.

With women becoming more financially independent, and living longer than men on average, “this a huge business opportunity,” says Anula Jayasuriya, a doctor who oversees a women’s health-care entrepreneurship and investment fund, EXXclaim Capital. She has invested in Wildflower Health, whose Grow application enables women to track the health of their families and tap into resources provided by a health plan or other sponsor.

The proportion of VC deals involving companies founded by women has doubled since 2006, yet is still only 18 percent, according to data from Pitchbook, which tracks private equity, venture capital and merger and acquisition activity.

Besides a lack of female mentors and investors, Whitehead thinks women’s health suffers because issues are often assumed to be psychological.

“We have a lot of preconceived notions where we reflexively assign issues to biology for men, and to psychology for women,” she says. “We’re under-serving men that way, too.”

Hormones are a key marker of disease that are consistently overlooked by medical professionals, says Heather Bowerman, who started Dot Laboratories in 2014. The company makes hormone test kits that rely on saliva samples, which can be sent through the mail to a lab. Users track the results over time using a mobile app.

Having that data at their fingertips can help patients choose the right contraceptive, as well as treatments for disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS, a market that’s set to double to $10 billion by 2020, Dot Labs says.

Research is revealing the breadth of the differences between the sexes, with genes, hormones and gender roles influencing the course of conditions such as heart disease, dementia and depression.

With more women involved in the health business, the foundation is there to capitalize on such discoveries.

“The wheels have been set in motion now for a very, very positive development in terms of increases in female investors, female entrepreneurs, female-founded business that will build long-term success,” Wenger says.

untitledwomens-health-2aBut more important is that this new Administration realizes the value of women, in business, in health care, as leaders and more importantly in this Administration. What a signal President Trump could send if he and his confidants could add a new cabinet position…the Secretary of Women’s Affairs and Diversity. What a message this could send that maybe this Administration was aware and sensitive to the values of one of the most important groups of important voters, purchasers of goods, business owners, professionals, etc.

I am trying to give the Trump Administration the credit for getting elected and the hope that their change may make a positive change to-Make All America Great….Again. Instead of the media, the GOP and the Dems being angry and threatened each other, maybe we need to work together and really make America wonderful and yes, great!

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