Why “Wellness for Women, by Women” Matters
Centering women's voices and addressing women's wellness needs are both integral to everything we do at LILAS Wellness. These two core goals form the bedrock of our mission and continuously shape our story. Naturally, as I brainstormed our mission statement, I considered how to best summarize these objectives in an accessible way. Given the focus of our company, the word “wellness” certainly needed to be incorporated, but beyond that, we all wanted to indicate our dedication to the community that we serve. To us, it is equally important that we are committed to wellness “for women” and “by women,” since both phrases parallel our two main goals.
There’s no question that, throughout history, women's voices have either been ignored or unheard. Due to the taboos that surround women’s specific ordeals, our health and wellness needs are often disregarded. We're constantly fighting against the status quo of andronormativity, which presupposes that men are the default humans when it comes to studying medical conditions. Of course, this completely overlooks the nuanced ways illnesses impact women’s bodies and health concerns that are unique to the female experience (i.e. menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, etc.). Even when women are included in medical considerations, our pain is often minimized. So, as women’s wellness is rightfully growing as a field, women’s needs can no longer be framed as derivatives to male ones. We need to assert authority over our own health and wellness experiences and acknowledge all of their distinct aspects. This is salient to why and how we develop the products that we do at LILAS–both physical products and digital communities. In order for us to say that we support wellness “for women,” we have been intentional in centering women’s voices, embracing the diversity amongst them, and navigating shared concerns in the community. Hopefully, this platform of conversation and action will foster more equitable and inclusive discourse in society at-large.
Who is better equipped to articulate women’s needs and address them accordingly than other women? Entirely too often, even when products, concepts, or systems are meant to serve women; unfortunately, women’s perspectives are not recognized or integrated throughout the process. What starts out with good intentions can devolve into alienating “mansplanations.” For example, while women make up an estimated 85% of gynecologists, less than 4% of healthcare companies are actually led by women. Though it’s great that the medical occupation dedicated to feminine concerns is predominantly championed by females, there are still opportunity disparities that exist across healthcare overall. As the legendary, beloved, and deeply missed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said, “Women belong in all the places where decisions are being made.” This is especially true when the said decisions directly impact our own well-beings. At LILAS Wellness, other than mostly being women ourselves, we prioritize learning from the feedback and perspectives of other women in all aspects of our work, from focus groups in our product development to Community Spotlights of our colleagues and mentors.
To give you a glimpse into our product development process, we thought we’d explain the genesis of the fabric we use for our patches. We included over 1,000 women (representing all shapes, sizes, and color/majority of whom were women of color) to be a part of the process and to help select features that mattered most to them. Women prioritized comfort (especially while exercising and sleeping), sustainability (all-natural and biodegradable), and other functional needs such as being able to use the patch while taking a shower or swimming. The fabric we proceeded with is a 4-way stretch (for comfort), waterproof/sweatproof, dye-free (all-natural), biodegradable medical-grade fabric–a holistic material chosen by our community of women for its features.
Saying that we are committed to wellness “by women” means that we are eager to collaborate with other women to ideate, refine, and execute each step that we take to the optimal benefit of our customers, engagers, and broader community. We hope to constantly be held accountable to this standard.
Ultimately, neither “wellness for women” nor “wellness by women” would be a sufficient mission statement for us. Both aspects are equally important parts of what LILAS Wellness stands for. Both are critical to the work of dismantling toxic status quos. We as women deserve to be well for our own sake and by our own terms. This is why “Wellness for Women, by Women” matters so much to us.