NC: I hope that many of those reading or listening, will look at your LinkedIn profile and be inspired by what’s written there. Most people would put a job description or a role nomenclature, you say you’re on a mission to improve women’s health. And I wanted you to share what the driver behind that mission is for you?
HR: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. So starting the company, again, was a spin out of this work we did at Stanford and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I wanted to work in women’s health, but I feel so fortunate to have landed there. The amount of unmet needs is so immense. I don’t mean this to sound silly, but like the smallest thing can really help and make a huge impact because we have so far to go. When I worked at Boston Scientific, it was in the cardiac space and that was important and very impactful as well. But it didn’t require the same amount of boldness. I work on vagina science and that still makes people blush and it’s kind of amazing because that’s just a part of the body. Maybe I should put just ‘vagina’ on my LinkedIn profile, just so people can recognize that, hey, by the way, more than 50% of the population has these parts and we need to take care of them too. Just after working in this space, I started recognizing that you can’t work in women’s health without feeling the need to support one another, who are also working in the space, but also just be loud and tell women that it’s okay to talk about these issues and, frankly, you deserve much better. That’s why I probably wrote it. I don’t think I even thought that hard about it.
NC: It is interesting because you do work in a space that would make potentially 50%, maybe not the whole 50% of the male population blush and maybe some women too, but what do you say when you’re in those conversations? How do you make people feel more comfortable and get their head around this is health and these are serious issues and topics that needs to be addressed?
HR: Well, I appreciate the question because I personally have come on a journey with it as well. When we first started the company, when I would talk about it, I would say, well, we’re improving quality of life and I’d be vague about what we’re doing. I didn’t want to shock anybody. But I was preparing for a pitch competition with a group of other entrepreneurs who all happen to be men and they told me to just say it, if you’re not going to say it, who is? And it was kind of a watershed moment for me. I was like, well, yeah, if I’m someone working on it, I’m not ashamed of it, so I shouldn’t act like other people should be ashamed of this and just be open. I always try to talk about it just like diabetes, just like asthma, it’s just a health condition and we don’t have to just suffer with it. We can do things to improve it for ourselves if we have it, or to raise awareness, so women know that there are options out there today and there are better options coming. We’re not on the market yet, but this is not something you just have to suffer with.
NC: And where do you see the focus for women’s health over the next five years? As you think what great could look like for this therapeutic area, this area is certainly a focus for your company, but others too?
HR: I think it’s exciting to see how women’s health has been brought into the conversations. Femtech is now a term, but I think it’s somewhat limiting as it’s trying to encompass all things. I am glad it exists and there are conversations around it. I’m glad it exists, and I think it is trying to be as encompassing as possible. But in the past, it all focused on surgeries for women, but much more recently, we’re talking about apps and fertility tracking and things like that, which are all important. But there’s a lot of things that still aren’t talked about and, obviously, menopause is one of them. That’s changing; I’m so excited we have a lot of other great companies in the menopause space. In the next five years, I hope that becomes equally important. It’s not just about a women’s reproductive years, it’s about her whole life. I think that that conversation is finally changing, and we can talk about periods and we can talk about infertility because that’s a big part of what a lot of women deal with. We can talk about what happens when all that’s over. There’s still 40+ years of a women’s life after that, and she deserves to live well. I also think an area to focus on are conditions that disproportionally affect women or disproportionately affect different ethnicities of women. I think that it’s something that is easy to overlook as well. It’s about improving the health of women, period.
NC: I like to find out from leaders, like yourself, what have you learned or applied from other parts of your life, like your personal life, your extracurricular life, your activity, your hobby life? Have you applied it to your leadership style?
RW: I appreciate the question; we also have a culture of bringing your whole self to work. Like we recognize that you’re not just the working Holly and then the rest of your life goes on. We think it’s important to share as much as you’re comfortable with about your personal life with your teammates, so that everyone understands where you’re coming from. So in that light, I became a mom about a year and a half ago and that’s the first thing that popped into my head of what that has meant. Obviously, that’s a transition that a lot of people go through becoming a parent, while also an employee and it really changed a lot of how I think about work and also, it’s given me surprisingly a lot of confidence.
NC: Congratulations on your new addition. These are always great years. And thank you for sitting down with me virtually. Hopefully, we can grab a cup of coffee in person at some point.
HR: That would be great. Well, thanks for having me.
The full, unabridged conversation between Holly and Nicole can be viewed in the video.
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