As we bid adieu to 2021, let’s take a look at how the past eleven-odd months have treated women.
On Decacorns and Sextech
Oh, and did we mention Adele?
By Amy Tai | Photos by Bex Aston
Amy is a writer and Dai brand editor who focuses on all things women, work & culture.
When it comes to women at work, 2021 has been a record-breaking year in ways both good (women-led businesses reaching unicorn status!) and bad (the gender pay gap is widening).
Forget Fintech. Investors are flocking to Fem, and Sextech startups. Women’s health and sexual wellness, “historically significantly overlooked” according to Forbes, are having more than a moment. Female founders – and the millennial market – are changing the conversation around sex-as-necessary-for-wellness.
As ever, this past year saw several sartorial highlights. “Sometimes a dress is just a dress, sometimes it’s a strategy,” wrote Vanessa Friedman, fashion critic for The New York Times. And sometimes, it’s Adele in a white pantsuit.
Power Move™ FLOW Legging Black
Maybe let’s start with the bad? The number of women reporting workplace burnout has increased to 42%. That infuriating gender pay gap? Might take over 250 years to close it. (No wonder womens’ blood pressure levels have spiked significantly).
The good: It’s been a banner year of female firsts, both big and small. 2021 saw more women in leadership positions than ever before. (Progress!). For a little over an hour, Kamala Harris became the first woman in history to hold American presidential power. China sent its first female astronaut on a space walk. A team of Mexican softball players, barefoot and wearing traditional embroidered dresses, have been kicking butt, winning games and inspiring a new generation of women to pursue sports.
2021 has also been record-breaking in terms of the number of women-led businesses reaching unicorn, nay, decacorn – read: billion-dollar or 10-billion-dollar valuation – status. To name a few? You may have heard of Rihanna’s side hustle, Savage x Fenty (the Queen of Barbados is also the first woman of color to head an LVMH maison). With Bumble’s IPO, co-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd became the youngest American woman to take a company public.
Startups with at least one female founder raised double the cash compared to the last two years, according to PitchBook. (Not to rub it in, but companies with at least one woman in charge generate twice the revenue for every dollar of VC funding).
Women’s wealth is accelerating, female entrepreneurs and female-led businesses are on the rise, there is unprecedented wealth transfer between generations of women, and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted female resilience and power.
THE STATE OF SEX
So yeah, venture capitalists are making it rain, particularly in the health and sexual wellness space.
One female-focused industry that’s had a helluva year? Women-centric healthcare technology. Aka, Femtech. The term was coined a couple of years ago by Ida Tin, founder of a period tracking app. “[Women’s health is] a sector that’s historically been significantly overlooked and undermined,” reported Forbes.
Femtech’s kissing cousin? Sextech. It’s a rather big umbrella encompassing everything from erotic apps and educational platforms to aesthetically-pleasing toys.
Let’s face it, talking openly about pleasure still feels pretty taboo. (Yeah, we’re taking it there). But with more women than ever starting businesses or creating products around de-stigmatising sexuality, it feels like the sex-as-necessary-for-wellness conversation is taking a real step forward.
“There’s been a massive shift among millennials and Gen Zers where buying these products for themselves is under the lens of self-care,” said Polly Rodriguez, CEO of sexual wellness brand Unbound.
Practicing self-love in any and all its forms? That’s something we can get behind.
WHAT WE WORE
It also felt like last year saw a real return to the red carpet, along with big fashion moments.
“[There’s] a reason the Women’s Campaign School at Yale Law… includes a seminar entitled ‘Dress to Win,’” wrote Vanessa Friedman, fashion critic for The New York Times. “Sometimes a dress is just a dress. Sometimes it’s a strategy.”
And sometimes, it’s Adele in a white pantsuit. Or AOC in a red-lettered gown. Who among us can soon forget poet Amanda Gorman’s poise, or canary yellow coat?
A silent statement that speaks volumes. “Such visual messaging remains the exception to the general rule (that’s part of what makes these moments stand out, and gives them their power),” continued Friedman, on the subject of political power dressing.
It’s often said a bold suit is every woman’s sartorial trump card. Looking forward to fresh starts? We’re ready to play that hand.
THE LAST WORD by Joanna Dai
It’s been two months since my yoga hibernation, and I’ve been practicing the new stuff in my daily life. What is it? It involves some form of daily mindfulness to fill the space in between work and the social things, like journaling, meditating, reading books on life, listening to Dharma talks, and practicing yoga 2x a week plus homework as part of Triyoga TT.
Sounds trite, but the contentment has settled in. I mean true contentment, not the fleeting, illusory kind that you struggle to hold onto. At least I think it has. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, right?
So this Santosha, or feeling at peace with myself, has been here for a few weeks, unwaveringly, and I’m going to take it. It feels like I’m metaphorically deeply rooted into the earth, like no gust of wind or hurricane can move me now.
It’s that time of year where another trip around the sun is almost over. Bye 2021, together with its stray sibling, 2020. Maybe we are supposed to feel a pinch of sadness for lost time or lost youth every year. But maybe this year, more than any other in recent memory, the saying “it can only go up from here” applies. Literally.
So let’s embrace it. Let’s look back on the Great Pandemic years and think of exponential, not linear, personal growth. What are yours? For me: I am more self-aware. I am kinder and more compassionate. I am less driven by tangible, materialistic things. I found a deeper meaning through work. I found more intention through design and community. I strengthened my commitment to our planet (note to self: make time for Green Office Hours in 2022). I’m finding my voice, and I’m using it.
And yes, I might be one big fat cliché – but I’m here for it. So, 2022, let’s go.