By Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
The worldwide wearables market is growing year after year. Gartner, Inc. forecasted that 310.4 million wearable devices will be sold worldwide in 2017, which is an increase of 16.7 percent from 2016. Sales of wearable devices will generate revenue of $30.5 billion in 2017; of that, $9.3 billion will be from sold smartwatches.
Yet it would be wrong to assume that wearable technology is mostly about smartwatches and fitness trackers. Ear-worn devices (hearables), smart textiles and VR / AR headsets are changing our perception of wearables, showing that this industry is all but boring and that a new generation of products is aiming to provide much more value to their user than just counting steps and sending email push notifications.
There has also been an increase in health-related products for women made by women over the past few years. FemTech is a health technology aimed at the female market in a new force on the rise. With more or less half the population on this planet being women, there’s clearly an unmet need.
The IoT industry is excited about the fact that wearables devices can track and monitor users’ biometric data. This has caused a surge in startups, health and tech companies developing health-related wearable tech products. While collecting data is one thing, analysing that data is the key to finding a killer app in wearables. That killer app could be women’s health. Data for menstrual cycles, fertility, pregnancy and menopause are just some examples where wearables for women are gaining in popularity at a rapid speed, and these wearable tech products are now being made and designed by women for women.
In moving away from “shrinking and pinking”, slow progress has been made with more women entering the space as founders and designers and there are universities in the UK now introducing wearables and e-textiles into their courses such as Queen Mary University, Ravensborne, CFE in London. Even school children are now learning about e-textiles with the popularity of DIY electronic suppliers such as adafruit, which is selling kits specifically for wearables.
One of the main problems that still remains is the lack of female role models, especially investors. This is because the majority of angel investors are men and because VC firms are mostly comprised of male partners. And since men network with other men within their network, they also invest more in male-led startups and businesses. Venture firms with women investment partners are 3 times more likely to invest in companies with female CEOs. It’s no wonder women CEOs aren’t getting funded.
A recent report by Diversity VC showed that only 13% of decision makers (partners or equivalent) in UK venture capital are women, 48% of investment teams have no women at all. Looking exclusively at decision makers, a staggering 66% of investment teams have no women decision makers. Women comprise just 27% of the venture capital workforce in the UK, and by comparison women comprise 47% of the UK labour force. This ultimately means that a very small number of female-led businesses are being funded by VCs (not only in the UK but also worldwide), and if female-led businesses aren’t receiving enough funding or are not receiving it at all, it means the entire tech industry is missing out on some potentially great businesses.
So it didn’t come as a big surprise to us when CES — The Electronics Consumer Show that takes place every January in Las Vegas — confirmed that it will not have any women in any of its top slots this year, making it a second-straight year without women as keynote speakers. Disappointment — yes. Surprise — no. “As upsetting as it is, there is a limited pool when it comes to women in these positions. We feel your pain. It bothers us, too. The tech industry and every industry must do better” — CES senior vice president Karen Chupka stated in a blog post.
Over the past year, we at Women of Wearables (Michelle, Rachael, Nayaraand myself) have met and talked to hundreds of women from 30+ countries, who are involved in wearable tech, fashion tech, smart textiles, health tech, IoT, VR and AR industries. We organised events, meet-ups, panels and have partnered up with 50+ industry organisations, startup accelerators and incubators. We’ve built a community of 10k+ members in 20+ countries and, while being headquartered in London, UK, we also successfully launched our international global communities in Germany, the US, the Netherlands, Sweden, Taiwan, China, Singapore and the Middle East.
In order to raise awareness and to celebrate our female founders, entrepreneurs and technologists in the wearable tech industry, as well as to make sure that our voices are heard and that conference organisers never again offer an excuse such as lack of female talent when it comes to speakers and panelists, Women of Wearables have compiled a list of the top 100 women in wearable and consumer tech. The only way to change the industry is to be part of the industry. Without female role models, women cannot be what they cannot see.
While the statistics are unfavourable towards women, these women are paving the way for all of us. They are great role models for those who not only want to enter the wearable tech industry, but they are also a proof of how creative and diverse this industry can be.
Aditi Chadha, founder of DAZL Wearables (India);
Anastasia Pistofidou, founder and researcher at Fab Textiles (Spain);
Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President at Apple Retail (USA);
Anouk Wipprecht, fashion tech designer (Netherlands);
Amanda Parkes, Chief of Technology & Research at Manufacture NY (USA);
Amy McDonough, SVP Strategy & Operations at Fitbit Health Solutions (USA);
Cher Wang, CEO and Chairwoman at HTC (Taiwan and USA);
Ivy Ross, Vice President, Head of Design for all Hardware Products at Google (USA);
Leila Martine, Director of Product Marketing at Microsoft (UK);
Lou-Anne Boehm and Nancy Boehm, fashion tech designers and co-founders of Twins Paris (France);
Nadia Kang, CMO at AiQ Smart Clothing (Taiwan);
Pauline Van Dongen, fashion and wearable tech designer (Netherlands);
Stacey Burr, VP Wearable Sports Electronics at Adidas (USA);
There are many more women who should be on this list and we’d like to encourage everyone to continue adding to it by posting in the comments. If you are a woman in this industry or know someone who would be great addition to our community of WoW women and wearable tech enthusiasts, get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org