We are a bit more than halfway through, but I think we can all agree when we say that 2020 hasn’t been a great year so far. However, it could be argued that this may be our best year yet, working as a trigger for a global change. This was the year where we finally said, enough is enough. But also, our time in isolation has taught us the importance of community, no matter our differences.
To me, the idea of ‘equality for all’ is a non-negotiable. And whoever knows me, is pretty much aware that I’ve always been a huge promoter of diversity and inclusion, extrapolating this meaning to every side of my life.
I like to say it’s an attitude of not just thinking outside the box, but not even seeing the box.
Safra A. Catz – CEO at Oracle
2020 has turned everything on its head. With that in mind, I thought I would seek out some major players in different industries who are opening up new conversations, shifting from conservatism and traditionalism and breaking boundaries. Topics such as feminism, diversity, LGTBI+, environment, social change and mental health will be the core of a series of interviews, with the hope it will help to raise awareness in these topics that matter the most, always encouraging healthy debate.
Welcome back to the ‘Field Notes for Change’ series! Today, we shine a spotlight on femtech and female health.
INTERVIEWING MARIA PURCELL
When writing this article, I instantly thought of Maria’s story straight away. Not only is she challenging the status quo for young girls and teenagers, but she is a black female founder launching in the middle of a global pandemic during her maternity leave from one of the biggest companies in the world. I have been following her journey with extreme interest so I was excited to be able to chat with her and find out more.
Maria Purcell is Head of Commercial Partnerships at Facebook and Co-Founder of The Hood, a company working to change the narrative on female health education and stigma.
Maria Purcell — Head of Commercial Partnerships at Facebook
How you made the transition from Big Tech to become a force for good in the area of female health?
I’ve actually not always been interested in female health. To be honest, I was an athlete for a long time and was still quite proud of my physical abilities. It never dawned on me that I might struggle in the future and wasn’t in the best state with regards to my female health.
As a young girl, so much emphasis is placed on your external appearance and especially as a black woman, you’re hit with even more scrutiny on everything from your skin tone, physique and also how you speak.
It was only when I struggled to conceive and had multiple miscarriages did I really start to do my research. There was just so much I uncovered that I wasn’t already aware about. In my mind, there was a basic education that hadn’t been taught whilst I was in school and also conversations that hadn’t happened with friends and family as an adolescent.
The catalyst came when my niece, who at the time was only nine years old started her period. I remember thinking that I wanted to make this time extra special for her, but also provide the foundations that would help prepare her for womanhood.
How’s The Hood helping make an impact in the female health area?
Through our research, we started to understand that there was a need for change in how we viewed our female health but also, how we started to educate ourselves in this area.
This is where our mission to ‘redesign the world with women in mind’ stems from. For us, it all begins with the first period and puberty, but we are looking to design a range of experiences that will accompany women at every life stage. Female health is a large and complex topic covering everything from menstruation to menopause, and right now, the only innovation we are seeing is limited to period tracking or fertility treatments. Interestingly these spaces are also predominantly shaped by western white women, catering to an audience with a high disposable income. Women of colour seemed to be missing from a lot of industries with femtech and the femcare space being no exception.
Everyone’s experience is different, but we hope to raise awareness, provide information and ultimately create a space for women to explore areas explicitly related to their own female health and wellness.
What do you think will come next?
The status quo is being challenged in all areas of life, and as we struggle with the implications of the pandemic, now more than ever, health is a top priority.
We are also seeing a backlash on brands that seek to target women, but rarely putting their best interests at the heart of their offering.
If you look at the difference from when our parents were younger to our generation, we have seen a noticeable shift to prevention rather than cure. The internet has fuelled a self-education movement and the ability to understand more about our own bodies. For the femcare space specifically, it is really now about challenging the information that is out there and fill the gaps when there is a lack of it.
My hope is that we also start to challenge some of the existing business models and structures that are in place. In doing so, we can start to make femcare more accessible, sustainable and a priority for all.
Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash
A GENERATION OF CHANGE
One does not need to have eyes to notice that social changes are globally happening –for good– and it’s the time and responsibility of organisations and individuals like myself to speak up for what is right and give those a voice who would otherwise not be heard.
I have always been surrounded by inspiring women in my life, but I am in awe of the women who are bringing about change.
We have a long way to go, but change is coming and you all have my unconditional support.