Home Column - Tuesday We can close the gender gap, By Okezue Bell

We can close the gender gap, By Okezue Bell

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We live in a really, really exciting point in history: 1

If we look at our lives today, the proportional growth between knowledge and time is supposed to increase exponentially. The human race will literally be off the chart. We are currently experiencing these changes, understanding how society is already rapidly growing and developing.

We have technologies that are more computationally powerful than ever, cancer has been cured in space, we have achieved quantum supremacy, created electronic paper from organic substances, but we have not been able to cater to 50% of the population adequately. We have done all of these things, yet problems like maternal mortality and PCOS persist in millions, if not billions, of women across the world. As a male, I still think this is important.

Why have not we been able to solve the problems that are right in front of us? Why is technology always something that is used to make our lives a little bit better, instead of way better? Why are we not helping the other ½ of the world?

Because we have problems, and solutions that are not necessarily designed for women, and in turn do not solve the problem or prevent the outcome.

Imagine you got the latest phone. You get the watch, headphones, and laptop to go along with it. The phone is glistening and reflective, and it has an amazing camera on the back. Then, you turn on the phone, and you realise that there is no screen. There is no processing system to simplify the computational data, no widgets, no graphics. Just pure complexities of chips, sensors, and soldered micro-units.

There is absolutely no context for all of the powerful machines packed inside this small form factor. Sound like anything similar?

If you guessed that this is what our knowledge currently looks like in the XXI century for women’s bodies, then you would be correct. Today, we operate just like the phone. We are aware of the complex systems in the female body (namely the reproductive system), but we choose not to have any screen. Any useful information. Any knowledge.

We are going in blind to one of the most difficult concepts to understand in our world today. Instead of trying to pivot, we just force what we already know on an entirely different demographic. We have spent years building products for men by men, so we try to do the same with women.

We built products for women by men.

As you can probably imagine, that setup did not work out too well, and a whole host of problems emerged from there. Not only did we exclude the only other biological gender from nearly all of our clinical trials for flagship drugs and disease testing, making women more vulnerable to diseases, and lacking treatments for sex-specific diseases, like endometriosis. To visually understand this, I have constructed a *beyond* Sudoku board of women’s health problems.

Let us take a look at these issues:

  1. Over 53,000 women/year are diagnosed with uterine/endometrial cancer, and 11,000 deaths of women occur annually because of uterine cancer.
  2. 19 million women have menstrual issues, and nearly 10% of all women have issues with giving birth.
  3. Many women have toxoplasmosis symptoms during pregnancy, and up to 80% of women experience the effects of the parasitic disease.
  4. 303,000 women die during or after pregnancy each year, and nearly 225 women bleed to death after pregnancy each day.
  5. Women are two times more likely to have asthma, and/or damage themselves during physical activities.
  6. 50% of women’s deaths to heart failure is because of incorrect treatments, which causes 1 in 5 of all female deaths.
  7. Women are extremely prone to getting a variety of diseases, and are still severely underrepresented in clinical trials.

This totals 7+ different problems that affect millions of women across the world, causing horrible conditions that threaten their future of forming a family, and sometimes their health all together. So, our current ISO 45001 health/public health and safety standard is not up to par for women.

However, by taking a step back from women’s health standards and looking at the physical health of a female from a biological standpoint, we see some pretty interesting emergent properties. So, for the next bit of time, we are going to go over all you need to know about female biology.

The FemConomy

Aside from being 1/2 of our population and awkward sex-ed classes, women make up half of the U.S. workforce. This means that the flow of the economy is largely dependent on women. Therefore, being in good health largely depends on that. We rely on women to fuel our cash flow.

  • Women’s labor contributes $7.6 trillion to the nation’s GDP each year
  • In one year, women working for pay in the United States earn more than Japan’s entire GDP of $5.2 trillion
  • If all paid working women in the United States took a day off, it would cost the country almost $21 billion in terms of GDP

Someone did the math, showing us USers (and the rest of the world) how much we rely on women.

Women make up 94 percent of employees at child day care services, 88 percent of home health service workers, 97 percent of pre-school and kindergarten teachers, 90 percent of registered nurses, 94 percent of secretaries and administrative assistants, and 89 percent of maids and housekeeping cleaners.

Not only are they fueling the money, but many of our integral appliances and educational work needs them. In fact, I cannot remember the last time when I had more female than male teachers (not including high school year). These occupations are the impetus for educational efforts, and play a huge role in facilitating the creation of the next generation of high-paid individuals. Women not only birth our following generations, but they also ensure that it is high quality.

Women dominate the healthcare industry, and make health choices.

80% of women make healthcare decisions in the United States. That is well beyond just the “majority”.

Beyond that, they are autonomous. 94% of women make healthcare choices for themselves.

Despite the stigma around doctors being men, and nurses being women, reality paints a different picture around women in healthcare. Over 60% of all of the employees getting into the healthcare space are women, and just under 50% of the average entry-level employees are women.

I am seeing these changes myself. My sister is an M.D., in residency for general surgery, and my other sister is excelling in finance, and possibly transferring into working in the public health policy space. Health care has the highest female representation overall for women! 

Somehow, C-Suites are the lowest, oddly. In healthcare, and in every sector on average. However, one would think that women have the entire femtech industry, and that the Corporate America and Healthcare averages be slightly higher considering that factor?

But that is not the case.

The femtech industry is not necessarily controlled by women.

Female health-technology is definitely a booming startup sector. A lot of money is being poured into it. Bleeding edge health technologies for women, like electronic tampons and organic sanitary napkins, which has led to over $250 million being raised from 2019 alone. This growth is expected to continue years from now, and will be valued up to 50 billion in 2025, of which there are 3.7 billion prospective female consumers.

Because women over age 19 also spend more per capita on healthcare than men, and women are the 90% major healthcare stakeholders in families, there has become a necessity for more advanced and equitable healthcare systems/technologies for women.

With over 200 femtech startups worldwide, they are taking on a wide range of issues and conditions that disproportionately affect women including osteoporosis, breast cancer, autoimmune conditions, stroke, thyroid issues, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

In 2018, femtech earnings were $650 million. In the beginning of 2019, earnings were already $250 million, and will reach ~1 billion by the end of 2019. However, femtech as a cash sector does not involve too many females, oddly. In 2018, only 2.2% of companies with all women founders received VC funding.

Women make up only 9% of venture capitalists working with startups, and only about 4% of funding for healthcare research and development is invested in women’s health globally.

Despite this, women are leading the charts; women at the helm achieve 35% higher ROI than those led by men. Unfortunately, though, the largest funding rounds raised in femtech are majority by men.

Even still, the femtech industry is booming. But the continued need for general women-specific health care is not doing so well.

Add to that women pay more, and are more willing:

  • Women pay on average 69 percent more for out-of-pocket healthcare costs than men.
  • Women are up to 4 times more likely to buy or use new healthcare products.

And there is an even larger reason economically. Helping countries can mean big financial benefits.

However, even with the visible economic and societal losses and the goal to serve the majority of the poorest 1B on earth, we forget to actually put our money where our mouth is, oftentimes literally.

This in mind, there is quite obviously a management problem when it comes to female-centric logistics. That, coupled with other institutional-level issues spells out additional troubles for women of non-white baackgrounds, who are disproportionately affected by the issues I shared earlier. Ultimately, this is why it is vital that people of all shades and genders (and ages) continue to shed light on these problems, and are understanding of the economic importance and benefits that supporting women posses. Ultimately, we will find that the problem is not that we – countries like the US, Canada, Nigeria, etc. – do not have the resources or means to create change, it is just that those resources are not in the right place to do so.

Before you go…

My name is Okezue, a developer and researcher obsessed with learning and building things, especially when it involves any biology or computer science. Check out my socials here, or contact me @[email protected]

I write something new every day/week, so I hope to see you again soon! Make sure you comment, and leave some claps on this too — especially if you liked it! I sure enjoyed writing it!

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