Mindsets from the Middle

An Ethnographic Exploration of Modern Midlife Womanhood

Midlife women have long gone undervalued, understudied, and under-invested in.

However, not only are midlife women at their peak earning potential, but they also make 85% of household purchasing decisions. Not to mention, the “midlife” phase of womanhood has only been extended as average life spans increase. We’ve seen some innovation come online in recent years, but so many venture-backed brands today only target the physical milestones of this life stage (e.g., pregnancy, postpartum, the menopausal transition), reducing the midlife woman and her needs to her biological processes.

The goal of this body of work is to unpack the mindsets that define midlife womanhood in the US in a consumer-obsessed way — to identify opportunities ripe for VC-backed innovation and to turn our intellectual curiosities into investment conviction. Read on to hear about our research — or download the full report.

I tried to write a report about wellness. For months, articles, interview recordings, and sticky notes were nestled in a folder titled, Wellness for the Midlife Woman. I talked to experts across categories from nutrition and supplements to fertility, urogynecology, fitness, menopause, and sexual wellness. I asked consumers to reflect on what wellness meant to them — about the people and products they trust. I expected my work to result in a tidy picture of what wellness means for women in their midlife today, a likely mix of consumer health, femtech, beauty, and self-care. If I had shared this expectation with anyone of my 50+ wonderful midlife women research participants, I suspect she might have responded with a patient and know-ing smile at my assumption that I’d reach such orderly closure. She might say, “If only it were that easy!” Or she might just let me live out my naivete as a woman who has yet to go through it.

It’s the it of midlife — as I’ve learned through the stories and lived experiences of women roughly ages 37 to 62 — that makes wellness a near-impossible category to research in isolation. Midlife womanhood seems to be marked by the general dissolution of clear lines and boundaries, be it the personal and professional, the physical and mental, the situational and hormonal, or the care of self and care of others. It’s not just the lack of boundaries that seems to blur the many colors of midlife womanhood — it’s also the pace. This stage of life seems to move faster than other life phases, as growing kids and aging parents serve as clear markers of the passage of time.

It’s no wonder that, when asked to talk about wellness, midlife women didn’t talk in terms of product categories or market maps. To reduce her to a sum of her biological parts just misses out on too many important variables that could only be captured by a more holistic view. What these women want early-stage brands and investors to know aren’t the corners and crevices of their bodies, minds, homes, and lives that they can optimize. The story they wanted to tell was one of big life decisions and painful trade-offs, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, the fight to find balance amidst the chaos. And so, as any truly consumer-obsessed builder should, I let consumers drive this body of work. My exploration evolved from a study on wellness for midlife women to a study on the realities of midlife womanhood today — to build a deeper under-standing of the mindsets that drive behaviors in this life phase and the things that seem to get in the way of being, feeling, and staying well.

In the full report, we tap into the perspectives of experts, founders, families, and most importantly, midlife women themselves to identify opportunities to serve and support women in midlife that are ripe for VC-backed innovation — as well as an opportunity framework for investing or brand-building in this space.

We are more bullish than ever on investing in brands serving midlife women, and we look forward to sharing our point of view with you.

Download the full report →

Mindsets from the Middle

About this series: Consumer-Obsessed is a series of research deep-dives on behavior shifts that we believe are at a tipping point — and that we, as Listen, feel particularly inspired to invest against. Read our previous report: Food As Medicine.

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