March is Women’s History Month, which is all about celebrating the strong women and feminists who overcame adversity and made major strides throughout history — the women who made paved the way in STEM, education, art and literature, politics, and in the fight for human rights. It’s also the perfect time to highlight the work of women who are killing it right now in their chosen fields, including women who are redefining the wellness industry.
The wellness industry — which encompasses beauty, fitness and nutrition, mind-body therapies, spas, workplace wellness, holistic medicine, and more — is worth an estimated 4.2 trillion (yes, trillion) dollars, according to a 2018 report from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI). Awesomely enough, unlike many other industries, Forbes recently reported that the health and wellness market is largely led by female entrepreneurs.
Despite this being a huge accomplishment, wellness also has a reputation for being inaccessible to people of color, the disability community, or folks who aren’t wealthy. However, many women are thinking outside the box and creating innovative ways to tackle this problem — making sure health and wellness is for everyone, as it should be.
Dr. Kristian Henderson is a public health professor who saw the need to make the wellness industry more diverse. So, she founded BLK+GRN — an online marketplace filled with high-quality, natural, and holistic products made by Black artisans. “In order to have a voice at the table, you have to own a piece of the table. The easiest way to begin to own a piece of the table is through entrepreneurship,” Henderson told Forbes in 2018. “I personally wanted to take on this journey of trying to spend more of my money more conscientiously on small, local, women-owned, black-owned companies, and to stop supporting these major corporate giants.”
BLK+GRN has everything from skincare and hair products, to home cleaners free of harsh chemicals. Henderson is helping to subvert the myth that wellness is just for wealthy women — and you can too by supporting BLK+GRN.
CBD is still a majorly male-dominated industry, but many women are working hard to change that. Brittany Carbone, the founder and CEO of the New York-based CBD company, TONIC, is one of them. The health coach first launched TONIC in 2017, after she discovered CBD helped her anxiety and depression. “There has definitely been a surge in female-owned cannabis/CBD companies on the retail side of things, but as you travel down the supply chain things remain predominantly male,” Carbone told Venture Cap News in 2018. “I believe we need more women growing the plant. The numbers are definitely increasing, […] but as the industry evolves, we stand to be crushed by the patriarchy once again. So, it is about garnering the power and momentum we have right now to ensure that equity and inclusion is a sustaining theme as cannabis moves further and further into the mainstream.”
There are a boatload of supplement brands out there, and it can be hard to figure out which ones you can trust, especially since the FDA does not review vitamins before they are sold. That’s why Katerina Schneider founded Ritual — the supplement brand you’ve probably seen all over your Instagram feed. “In my search for the perfect prenatal vitamin, I found many … questionable ingredients. I couldn’t find a brand that I trusted, so I decided to build my own,” Schneider writes on Ritual’s site.
Unlike many other supplement brands, Ritual strives for transparency about the ingredients they use. What’s more, they back up their ingredient choices with scientific research to ensure that people truly get a high-quality product that won’t compromise their health.
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, aka Dr. Joy, has paved the way when it comes to making mental health and wellness-focused services more accessible for Black women. The Georgia-based psychologist created Therapy For Black Girls, a nationwide online database that connects Black women to Black therapists.
“I created the directory because I continued to see the same conversation around Black women looking for a therapist come up again and again,” Dr. Joy said of the directory in a 2017 interview with fellow Bustle writer Katie Mitchell. “My experience has been that Black women typically prefer to have other Black women as therapists as there tends to be a level of ‘feeling seen and known’ that exists between Black women.”
Jessamyn Stanley, a yoga teacher and writer, is a vocal advocate for body representation in yoga, as well as making it a welcoming practice for people of color, disabled folks, and those who are simply beginners. She travels around the U.S. delivering workshops on various wellness-related topics, and instructing yoga classes. Additionally, Stanley wrote a book in 2017, titled, “Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body.”
As the world becoming increasingly more digitized, reproductive healthcare has, too. There are a number of period tracking apps out there, but the Tia app is leading the pack: The app, founded by Carolyn Witte and Felicity Yost, not only tracks your period and related symptoms, but it can help you find OB/GYNs in your local area.
Recently, the co-founders opened the Tia Health Clinic, hoping to fill in the gaps of medical services they observed with data collected from the app. Rather than simply focusing on reproductive health, the clinic has taken a modern, holistic approach. As fellow Bustle writer Emma McGowan explained, the Tia clinic offers general health services (like treating a stomach virus), acupuncture, wellness workshops, and vaccines, all in addition to the standard gynecological services.
Traditional gyms and fitness centers can be an uncomfortable space for many women and LGBTQ folks. Nathalie Huerta, a personal trainer, previously told Bustle she experienced this discomfort at a gym when she came out as a lesbian herself. In response, Huerta founded The Queer Gym in Oakland, CA, in 2010. So, what makes The Queer Gym different than other fitness centers? The gym isn’t just inclusive: Huerta and her team actively center the wellbeing, and health ne of the LGBTQ community. According to their site, there is “no mansplaining, no distracting mirrors, no body shaming, and none of the homophobia and transphobia that you’ll find in ‘gym bro culture.'”
Huerta is helping to reclaim a space that has often felt unwelcoming for LGBTQ people, and setting an example for other fitness centers to be more thoughtful about the wellness of their queer gym members.
Women are transforming the wellness industry into a much more diverse, creative, and innovative field. These nine movers and shakers are making women’s history, right here, in the now — and that’s something to celebrate.