The tampon removal glove that got investor backing is an example of a broken entrepreneurial system

The tampon removal glove created by men that got investor backing is an example of a broken system

Pinky Glove

Did you know you that those who menstruate need a disposable glove to remove a tampon? Neither did I.

But two men in Germany have finally decided that we do. And so they created “Pinky Gloves” to help. Just pull on the disposable glove prior to removing the tampon or pad and you don’t have to touch a thing! Better yet, the glove then turns into its own bag that can go in the bin.

Presenting the idea on German television to the “Dragons Den” reality show, these founders then found another man who decided the “Pinky Glove” was a good idea – investor ‘dragon’ Ralf, who backed the idea with 30,000 euros.

The lightbulb moment for pinky gloves came after the male founders spent time living with women, where they realized there was “no good solution when it comes to the disposal of tampons”. They said they made it their “mission to find a solution that makes life easier for all women” when they have their periods. They particularly wanted to create a “safe feeling” for women, and offer something that is “appealing and stylish”.

This is the sad reality of entrepreneurship internationally, particularly around women’s health, where men go and attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist. They don’t only then get the investment dollars to make it happen, they also then have the opportunity to create and market a product in such a way that is pushes people to believe they need it.

Most tampons have strings to assist their removal, and even applicators. Most bathrooms also have toilet paper and running water, if you’re looking for some additional support. It’s not hard. It’s not actually a problem. And if you really wanted a glove to help, most supermarkets sell disposable gloves at what I’m guessing would be a fraction of the cost of a “pink” one.

Indeed, what these founders are essentially creating is another “pink tax” — where women pay the additional cost of “feminine” marketing and colours for a product that is often already available or, worse, that they don’t need at all.

Then there’s the period shaming that this glove represents — menstrual blood is perfectly normal and can be touched and easily washed off.

But ultimately, it’s the dramatic investment gender divide that’s highlighted here: something Cathy Ngo alerted me to on LinkedIn, where she outlined the dire stats regarding investment while sharing the pinky gloves example. Just 2.8% of VC funding internationally went to female-led startups in 2019, a figure that dropped to 2.3% in 2020. Cathy also notes the point that just 12% of decision-makers in VC firms are women and most still don’t have a female partner.

It’s telling that the same television show that awarded the male backers of ‘Pinky Glove’ the support they needed to move forward, did not award any investment to Ooia, a Berlin-based startup that sells period undies and nursing bras.

The founders of the pink glove have received a lot of feedback on social media since their television appearance. But they don’t yet look set to give the investment dollars back, suggest the money goes elsewhere or give up on their ‘pink’ menstrual product idea.

Rather, they have released a statement saying they have “not dealt adequately” with the subject, and that they will be “rethinking” the product.

They have also followed up with a photo of themselves in a boardroom with Ralf, and featuring an additional woman, declaring they are further talking and reflecting on the product and will examine and implement various new measures shortly.

Women’s health is ripe for futher innovation and investment. And as we’ve recently noted here on Women’s Agenda, some truly great things happen when women are given the opportunity to pursue their ideas and to help find solutions that make women’s lives easier and give them more control over their health. Like Kin, which offers a prescription delivery service, founded by Nicole Liu. And Ovira, a device supporting women experiencing menstrual cramps, founded by Alice Williams. There is also Modibodi in Australia, founded by CEO Kristy Chong — selling period underwear and aiming to directly target the waste associated with pads and tampons (not create additional waste, as the pinky glove does).

We need to give women the opportunity to determine the problems that need solving. And then the money to make those solutions possible.


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