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Investors are still bullish on women’s health despite the end of Roe, says Lux Capital’s Deena Shakir

July 14, 2022, 1:50 PM UTC
Moderator Emma Hinchliffe sitting with Lux Capital partner Deena Shakir, center, and Tia Clinic CEO Carolyn Witte on the Brainstorm Tech stage
Lux Capital partner Deena Shakir, center, and Tia Clinic CEO Carolyn Witte discuss the future of women's health companies post-Roe v. Wade at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, Colo.
Michael Faas/Fortune

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Janet Yellen embarks on a quest to curb dependence on Russian oil, Penny Mordaunt is an unexpected underdog in the election to replace U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson, and investors are still backing women’s health businesses despite the end of Roe.

– Talking tech. Hello from Aspen, Colo., where we just concluded three days of Fortune Brainstorm Tech. While there, I had the pleasure of addressing an audience of prominent tech CEOs, founders, and VCs about an important topic: the future of digital health startups after the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Deena Shakir, a partner at Lux Capital known for her investments in women’s health businesses, and Carolyn Witte, cofounder and CEO of the women’s primary care company Tia Clinic, told Brainstorm Tech attendees what they’re seeing so far.

Witte is working to integrate abortion care into primary care. Only 1% of abortions currently take place in a primary care setting, rather than a clinic or hospital. “There’s never been a more important time to talk about the moral and economic imperative to invest in women’s health,” Witte told the audience.

Lux Capital partner Deena Shakir, center, and Tia Clinic CEO Carolyn Witte discuss the future of women’s health companies post-Roe v. Wade at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, Colo.
Michael Faas/Fortune

From her perch as an investor, Deena Shakir can see how the VC industry is responding to the end of Roe. Last year, investors put $1.3 billion into women’s health companies, still just a minuscule share of the funding that went to digital health startups as a whole. But in light of the Supreme Court decision, are VCs cooling off on the category? Shakir doesn’t think so.

“I have been so heartened by the outpouring of interest and support in this space,” she said. “[They] see this capital deployment as a mechanism for action.” And fast-changing legislation doesn’t necessarily mean startups will struggle, Shakir added. “Regulatory constraints have compelled creativity and innovation.”

Kate Ryder, CEO of the women’s health business Maven Clinic, joined a separate panel discussion that featured unicorn companies. Maven, which is backed by Lux’s Shakir, became the first women’s and family health unicorn last year, valued at over $1 billion. She’s similarly optimistic about growth in the digital health category—including women’s health. “Make sure you have enough runway for three years,” she advised founders in the audience. “But also don’t pull back on growth because at a certain point, the markets are going to start rewarding growth again.”

Other leading women in tech also shared their insights about the industry. Hayden Brown, CEO of the freelance platform Upwork, weighed in on return-to-office plans. (The office is a relic, she said.) Moment CEO Lucy Guo participated in a lively debate on the tech industry’s exodus from San Francisco; she represents the Miami contingent. And Magic Leap chief technology officer Julie Larson-Green announced the launch of the virtual reality business’s second-generation headset.

For more from Brainstorm Tech, see Fortune’s coverage here.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Diplomatic endeavor. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen is traveling to Indonesia, along with a group of 20 finance ministers, to persuade them to cap the price of Russian oil. As European countries move to cut off oil exports from the eastern European nation by year's end, Yellen hopes her ambitious diplomatic proposal will hurt the Kremlin financially by damaging its key revenue source for its war in Ukraine and alleviate any global supply shocks. Politico

- Warning signs. The International Monetary Fund is lowering its growth forecasts for the global economy for the rest of 2022. IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva wrote in a Wednesday blog post that rising inflation and disruptions from the war in Ukraine have contributed to a weaker second quarter, and will continue into 2023. The risk of social instability is also increasing, she wrote, calling for enhanced global cooperation to mitigate further challenges. Financial Times

- New challenger. Four women are vying to replace U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the Conservative Party leader. Junior trade minister Penny Mordaunt is the second-most favored candidate, behind former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Mourdant was seen as a long shot candidate just days ago. Ahead of the first round of voting by Conservative parliamentarians on Wednesday, Mordaunt wryly compared Johnson’s leadership to former Beatles member Paul McCartney: “We indulged all those new tunes, but the thing we really wanted was the good old stuff that we knew all the words to.”  Wall Street Journal

- Concerning trend. Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal’s ouster from the retailer spotlights a worrying trend of female C-suite departures. Women CEOs step down after an average of 6.6 years, compared to 9.9 years for men, according to an analysis of the Russell 3000 index from 2017 through Monday, the same day as Syngal’s departure. The data also suggests that women leading companies are more likely to be forced out of their roles than men. Syngal stepped down after two years as Gap's CEO. Her predecessor, Art Peck, held his role for five years before exiting. Bloomberg

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: McDonald’s named Jill McDonald president of its international operated markets. Pinterest has hired Nadine Zylstra, former global head of YouTube Originals, as global head of programming and originals. Instacart has promoted Laura Jones to chief marketing officer. Tina Tchen, most recently CEO of the troubled organization Time's Up, has joined the Obama Foundation as chief strategy and impact officer. Former DocuSign vice president of customer success Kim Peretti has joined Klaviyo as its senior vice president of global customer success and support. SADA has appointed Sandy Hogan as its first global chief revenue officer.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Womenomics downturn. A group of shares tied to “womenomics”—a concept that explores the economic benefits of increasing female participation in the Japanese labor market—hit an all time low in the stock market last month. The shares, made up of 36 companies identified by Goldman Sachs nearly 20 years ago as most exposed to rising female employment and consumption, fell 24% from a peak in September 2021. Former prime minister Shinzo Abe, whose assassination last week shocked the country, was a major proponent of womenomics, though his implementation of related policies produced mixed results. Bloomberg 

- Negative outlook. Women are most likely to be affected by an inflation-induced cost-of-living crisis, the World Economic Forum warned Wednesday. The Switzerland-based think tank said that labor losses from the pandemic and insufficient care structure have hampered progress on closing the gender gap; it will now take 132 years for the world to reach gender parity. Time

- Poor marks. Five major social media platforms have failed to provide adequate policies to protect LGBTQ users’ safety, according to new data from the advocacy group GLAAD. Forty percent of all LGBTQ individuals and nearly half of trans and nonbinary individuals feel neither safe nor welcomed on social media, per the survey. TikTok received the lowest grade of the five platforms, which includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Variety

ON MY RADAR

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The last abortion clinic in North Dakota gets ready to leave New Yorker

PARTING WORDS

“I’ve continuously tried to learn how to continue to grow and balance my relationship with my love for my career or my passion in the arts and who I am outside of that as a person. I keep learning about myself, and I keep adjusting. It’s ever growing and ever changing.”

-Actress and singer Keke Palmer, on finding a balance in her nearly two decades long career and personal life.

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