On June 4th, together with our partners LUSH & Lunapads, we filled Chambar Restaurant in Vancouver, Canada with Women Deliver influencers eager to hear an esteemed group of innovators & investors discuss how Women-Centered Design helps unlock social & market opportunities, especially when innovating & investing in female health across the lifecycle. The brunch was initiated with a traditional welcoming ceremony by Elder Robert Price from the Snuneymuxw and Cowichan First Nations.

Moderated by MH Hub Co-Founder and powerhouse Milena Bacalja Perianes, the discussion’s tone was set by acknowledging that in light of all its progress, design thinking and human-centered design has tended to focus on ‘man’ as human, limiting the potential of the approach to truly innovate around the other half of the population. Enter Women-Centered Design.

Panelists included, from left, Gayani Abeyasinghe (Femtech at MAS Holdings), Juliet Whitley (DFID), Madeleine Shaw (Lunapads), Wendy Anderson (The Case for Her), Rachel Braun Scherl (SPARK) & Faz Bashi (Portfolia) who did a sensational job of opening up and letting us in on their thoughts and experiences on what it takes to build, support and sustain businesses around women’s pain points.

Both the investors and innovators had powerful insights to share with regards to why putting women’s realities at the center of is a win-win for everyone – for the market, for the investors and most importantly, the women who benefit from products and services designed to meet their needs in novel ways that actually consider their lived realities. Important to note is the way in which biological, socio-cultural, economic and environmental factors must become the starting point for innovation to improve the health of women, whether at menarche, during their reproductive years or during menopause.

After the panel, guests enjoyed a gourmet breakfast in the gorgeous brick halls as the recipients of the 1st ever Women-Centered Design Award were announced. What follows is a transcript of the award ceremony.

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Danielle Keiser, Co-Founder of the MH Hub: We gather you here today to recognize and commend organizations that have demonstrated and outstanding commitment to designing female health products and services, and building women-centered companies that ultimately work towards closing the gender gap.

Women-Centered Design acknowledges and innovates from the starting point that women’s bodies and experiences ARE different and therefore necessitate gender-specific innovation that responds to these biological realities. Whether in research, product development marketing or investment, WCD has the potential to radically shift inherent market biases that undervalue or under-represent women’s voices, experiences and purchasing power.

Today we are awarding our recipients with these gorgeous handmade vases made by ceramic artist Eva Zogaris, a first generation Canadian and immigrant from Greece working in downtown Eastside of Vancouver. The vases were purchased at Enterprising Women Making Art, a studio space and shop which helps women exit violence and poverty through art and entrepreneurship. We felt like bestowing these vases really ties together the story of Women-Centered Design.

Without further ado, please support me in recognizing the following 4 recipients of the first-ever WCD Rising Star Award:

 

THEA CARE

From India, TheaCare is a platform that aims to dismantle the culture of silence around women’s health and bodies by creating awareness, and fostering healthy conversations. Through a robust framework of well-researched content, an engaging community, comprehensive sex education, and a range of ingenious products and services, they seek to bring about holistic solutions to women’s health and body-care problems.

This award recognizes TheaCare’s commitment to innovating around the specific needs of women and girls. TheaCare improves access to vital health information, products and services for women from diverse backgrounds in India and is testament to how companies can be both body and sex positive and still be effective in addressing health disparities. Swarnima Bhattacharya, Founder of TheaCare, please come up to accept your award!

Women’s Global Health Innovations

From Canada, Women’s Global Health Innovations is a research and product development company working on the menstrual, sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescent girls and young women globally. Their product, the Bfree menstrual cup the world’s first antibacterial menstrual cup,

 was built with women’s needs and pain points in mind. The robust, low profile rim of the cup provides a leak-proof seal to make it easier for the cup to pop open when inserted. The intuitive tactile finger grips create a smoother experience of removing the cup… two things anyone who has ever used a cup knows are very, very real considerations!

This award recognises Women’s Global Health Innovations commitment to innovation and design of female health products. The bfree is a testament to the ways that companies can design products through rigorous clinical research and testing that not only ensures surface-level efficacy of the product itself, but also protects the long-term health of its users. Your dedication to designing these products, and positioning them in underserved markets are evidence of your commitment to ensuring equitable access to products that can close the gender health gap and improve gender equality outcomes. We welcome Founder Leisa Hirtz up here to receive the award!

 

BECOME

From Sri Lanka… Become is an apparel line made with cooling fabrics that use seamless knit technology to helpregulate body temperature, and wick moisture,  for women who experience hot flashes and spontaneous spikes in their body temperature during peri-menopause and menopause.

This award recognizes Become’s extraordinary commitment to designing gender-specific products and building a truly women-centered company. Innovating around the menopausal market whom traditionally have been excluded by new technologies, is testament to what WCD seeks to promote – that all areas of female health are market opportunities that radically improve women’s lives. Become has proven that it is dedicated to putting women at the heart of its brand, with your marketing campaigns and use of real menopausal women, the embodiment of this. Your perseverance in developing menopausal apparel which is both useful and beautiful are testament to a nuanced understanding of women’s needs, desires and experiences. We welcome Founder Gayani Abeyesinghe up here to accept this award!

 

CLUE

From Germany…. Clue is the #1 doctor-recommended menstrual tracking app. It is also an encyclopedia, a resource for your health, and more.

As a pioneer in the femtech space, Clue has demonstrated a commitment to not only providing an intuitive, responsive and necessary product for its users, but has shown dedication to advancing the female health field as a whole through its information portal and partnerships with leading universities to utilize user data for research purposes.

As a result, Clue’s contributions are leading to monumental shifts in clinical research regarding reproductive, menstrual and sexual health – areas which historically have been underserved by clinical and medical research. Clue has a built a truly gender-sensitive company whose commitment to data privacy, inclusivity, and authentic communication resonates with not only your users, but is exemplary of how businesses can and should be run. We welcome Anna Druet, Science and Educational Manager at Clue, to please come up to accept the award for Clue!

 

 

We thank all those who attended, participated and won, and hope that everyone both learned something new and also met some interesting people along the way.

For more information on Women-Centered Design, get in touch with us at info@mhhub.org.

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