Investing in menopause can have many rewards
The night before writing this article, I woke up with a hot flash and pain in a frozen shoulder. I’m not writing this because I need your sympathy, but I want your attention.
Today, many women and at least some men can recognize them as symptoms related to menopause. I want to go further and see if there could be an investment angle in this awareness.
Granted, many more people have been talking about both menopause (when periods finally stop) and perimenopause (the transition from menopause, when estrogen levels drop) since May, when TV personality Davina McCall aired a Channel 4 documentary.
Since then, everyone from TV presenter Lorraine Kelly to the royals have broken taboos on the subject. The Countess of Wessex has spoken of her own experience of menopause, describing losing track of her thoughts on royal engagements and feeling like someone has “pulled her brains out”.
In June, MP Carolyn Harris called for a “menopause revolution” after being elected chair of the new all-party parliamentary group set up to overhaul “menopause rights, rights and education.” This follows the UK government which admitted in March that it needed to fill the void in research and support for women’s health.
But greater awareness of women’s health issues (including menopause) has been bubbling up in companies for far longer than a few months. Under the leadership of women, entrepreneurs developed applications while several general managers introduced educational initiatives and policies for employees.
The global femtech industry, specializing in products and services designed to meet the often overlooked health needs of women, is expected to boom and reach $ 60 billion by 2027, from $ 19 billion in 2019, study finds Emergen Research, a consulting firm.
Venture capitalists have backed companies like Syrona Health, a London-based virtual health clinic from Cambridge University. It has been described as the “Amazon of Gynecologic Care” and aims to raise standards of care, developing digital therapies for conditions such as endometriosis.
Elvie, a silent breast pump pioneer also based in London, raised a record £ 58million in June with participation from the investment group BlackRock. Elvie founder Tania Boler has publicly stated that she hopes to become the first femtech company to launch an IPO in the next two years, a move that would give savers the opportunity to invest.
Among today’s listed companies, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) presents opportunities for a menopause game.
The HRT market was valued at $ 17.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $ 26.8 billion by 2026 according to Mordor Intelligence, a global market research company.
In the United States, Novartis Pharmaceuticals supplies the Estradot patches (which Davina McCall used in the documentary). Novo Nordisk offers a range of HRT products, including Vagifem. Merck in the United States is the manufacturer of Livial, which includes the hormone Tibolone.
Meanwhile, the German and American pharmaceutical groups Bayer and Pfizer respectively manufacture the Mirena IUD and the Premarin.
Mordor Intelligence predicts that the Covid-19 pandemic could impact growth in demand for HRT. Scientists suspect that the hormone estrogen may have a protective effect against Covid-19 for both men and women. The Zoé Covid study in the UK studied the effect of sex hormones on symptoms of Covid.
In July 2020, he found that postmenopausal women were more likely to develop severe symptoms than younger women. So far, HRT has not seemed to offer any protection against severe symptoms, but there is still a lot to be discovered about the different types of HRT and how long to take them.
When it comes to investment funds, with more funds still managed by men called Dave (68) than there are female managers in total (45) according to Morningstar analysis in March 2021, it no wonder we don’t have a plethora of funds for gender diversity or women’s health.
But there are more and more investment cases to be made. Morgan Stanley Research found that a more diverse workforce, represented by women at all levels of the organization, was correlated with higher average returns. From 2011 to 2019, companies that prioritized equal representation outperformed their less diverse peers by 3.1% per year.
A handful of passive funds provide exposure.
The UBS Global Gender Equality UCITS ETF, launched in 2017, tracks the top 100 leading companies internationally in gender equality. Its main holdings are Societe Generale (the French multinational bank), Robert Half International (global human resources consultancy based in California), Deckers Outdoor (designer and distributor of shoes based in California), ITV (British media company) and Hartford Financial. Services (United States investment and insurance company).
The ETF SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index was launched in 2016 and, managed by State Street Global Advisers, tracks US companies that are leaders in advancing women through gender diversity on their boards and of their leadership. Its main holdings are Visa, Walt Disney, PayPal, United Health Group and Salesforce.com.
But expanding investment choices is difficult. This year, Legal & General Investment Management dissolved its Future World Gender in Leadership UK Index fund, known as the Girl fund, after failing to attract money from investors.
The fundecomarket The website allows investors to search for ethical and responsible investment funds that include gender diversity and other issues that may be important in choosing investment policies.
If women can better control the symptoms of menopause, not only will they benefit, but their employers will benefit too. And with them, investors are supporting businesses with effective menopause management policies.
Symptoms of menopause usually start in women between the ages of 45 and 55 – they can lead to hot flashes, night sweats, sleep loss, and mood swings. While some women won’t have any problems or mild problems, for others the effects can be debilitating. A 2019 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that almost 900,000 women in the UK had quit their jobs due to symptoms of menopause.
Liv Garfield, general manager of Public Service Severn Trent, has been outspoken on the subject, while GlaxoSmithKline, Hargreaves Lansdown and Vodafone are among other companies on the FTSE 100 to introduce menopause policies for their employees in an effort to increase productivity and improve diversity.
GlaxoSmithKline said half of its female employees are over 45, while Vodafone estimates that around 15 percent of its 100,000 employees are in menopause.
With symptoms often starting at an age when women could step into leadership roles, there is a potential impact on board diversity. However, the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 both achieved the goal of having at least 33% female representation on boards by the end of 2020 according to the Hampton-Alexander study.
However, some sectors – financial services – are less diversified than others. In May 2021, Standard Chartered Bank partnered with the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) to explore how the menopause transition affects women working in financial services and their progression to leadership roles.
Investors should take note. Companies that successfully help female employees manage their menopausal transition can hope to retain their more experienced female staff and increase the pool of candidates for the more senior positions. In turn, this could increase the chances of selecting quality candidates and future business leaders. The result is bound to benefit.
Moira O’Neill is Head of Personal Finance at Interactive Investor