Despite Benefits, Femtech Information Access Presents Workplace Discrimination Risk

Biometric wearables and health-based mobile apps, which have been honed to the point of having tracking capabilities for virtually every possible indicator of personal health, include a burgeoning subcategory designed to address the unique biological needs of women: femtech. This piece of the personal health puzzle is estimated to hit $50 billion by 2025, effectively doubling its market value from 2020. But experts in the space caution that integrating femtech with corporate wellness programs could generate charges of sexism.

“Employers who consciously or unconsciously believe in certain stereotypes about women—that women who are menstruating are distracted, that women who are trying to get pregnant are poor candidates for investment and promotion, that mothers are less committed to their work than fathers—could use this data to act on those prejudices,” said Liz Brown, Professor of business law at Bentley University. “What seems like a benefit can actually be a source of bias.”

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Although the health assistance for women (and their families) are considerable, the ability to track information on female reproductive health, with detailed metrics on menstruation, fertility, and menopause, might be a double-edged sword. Many women may not realize that their higher-ups are also granted access to this personal, sensitive information, thinking that HIPAA protects them. The companies collating this health data, however, are third-party providers and therefore not covered entities. The resulting level of information sharing could lead to workplace discrimination.