Healthcare in general, like education and agriculture, is already a popular field for impact investing. Women’s health specifically, though, is an often overlooked yet obvious sector for impact. It offers investors the potential for outsized financial and social returns since bettering women’s health can improve their lives as well as their families, workforce, and countries’ overall economies.
But a myriad of health issues can prevent women from working at their full capacity, if at all. Even sitting can be a challenge for an unhealthy woman. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is two to three times more common in women than in men, can prevent women from sitting for extended periods. On the flip side, excessive sitting can exacerbate their symptoms (and the normal office worker tends to sit for about 15 hours every day). Beyond sitting, 47% of responders in one study reported that RA-caused morning joint stiffness affected their work productivity, 33% said it caused them to arrive late for work, and 15% noted it required them to take sick leave over the past month.
Other conditions that affect women exclusively or disproportionately, such as mental health, period pain, and pregnancy, can have their own negative effects on women’s health and work. Globally, lost productivity due to anxiety and depression is valued at $1 trillion, and women are about two times more likely to have depression and/or anxiety than men are. Meanwhile, those with period pain saw nearly nine days in lost productivity per year, and, in another blow against working women, 38 countries still allow women to be legally fired for being pregnant.
HEALTHY WOMEN ARE GOOD FOR THE ECONOMY
Women collectively spend $500 billion annually on medical expenses. Birth control can cost up to $600 per year, feminine care throughout a woman’s life costs almost $2,000 (or more if she lives in one of the 21 states that tax these essential products as “luxury items”), and childbirth costs an average of $18,865 in the United States.
As women age and their risk for certain health issues increases, the costs keep accumulating. Estimated medical costs for gynecological cancers (cervical, ovarian, and uterine) are $3.8 billion collectively and, for breast cancer, are $3.14 billion. Menopause costs an average of $20,000 in often trial-and-error spending on doctor visits, prescriptions, products, and more.
Investing in innovative tools and treatments for reproductive health, cancers, and menopause, among others, could lower these costs to individual women and/or their insurance providers. The result could be an influx of capital, which would’ve otherwise been used to cover health-related expenditures, into a different sector of the economy that may need it.
INVESTING IN WOMEN’S HEALTH ALSO SUPPORTS FEMALE FOUNDERS
Investing in women’s health can improve the lives of and decrease costs for these individual women but can also benefit their families, workplaces, and economies: an outsized impact that makes this historically overlooked sector ripe and ready for impact investing.
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Khadija Al Bastaki, Vice President of d3, on inclusivity in the creative sector