LYNDSEY HARPER | ROSY
Claire Haidar and Doug Foulkes join Dr. Lyndsey Harper, MD, founder of ROSY, an app for women experiencing decreased sexual desire and other sexual related problems. We discuss the link between sex, self-esteem, and work. That includes our educational obligation as a sexual being and the ME TOO movement, and how evasion and a lack of drive can reflect behavior in the workplace.
SexTech is bringing people back to their bodies, and this needs to be the same in the work environment in order to help with understanding physical signals, mental patterns, and needs.
Lyndsey Harper, MD is the Founder and CEO of Rosy, an app for women with decreased sexual desire. She created Rosy out of frustration when she couldn’t find a modern and accessible resource to help her many patients with this problem. Dr. Harper completed Ob/Gyn residency in 2011 at Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Harper saw patients in private practice for seven years and now is a hospitalist. She is Associate Professor of Ob/Gyn for Texas A&M College of Medicine, a Fellow of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and a Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.
Doug Foulkes: Hello there and welcome to the Future of Work and Sextech the podcast that looks at everything to do with work in the future. Today, Wndyr CEO Claire Haidar and myself, Doug Foulkes are joined by Dr. Lyndsey Harper. Lyndsey is an OBGYN who has moved away from daily practice and into the world of sextech. She is the founder of Rosy, a research based tech solution aimed at helping women with low libido and other sexual problems. Ladies, I feel outnumbered, but hello.
Claire Haidar: Hi Doug. Hi Lyndsey.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Hi Doug. Hi.
Claire Haidar: Lyndsey, thank you so much for joining us today. I am excited about this episode, and it’s for the simple reason that future of work and sex are two great topics to mix with each other. Don’t you agree?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Well, absolutely. What could be more fun? Thanks for having me.
Claire Haidar: OK, Lyndsey, you know, diving right in. I got to know you as an OBGYN and here you are today running a sex company. And it’s a really, really exciting space that you that you’re working. What I’d like to dive into first, because I think it’s really going to set very much the foundation of the rest of this call is, can you talk to us specifically about the patients that you used to work with that prompted you to move in this direction, that you moving in now and talk to us about some of the issues that particularly leaders in workplaces need to be thinking about when it comes to sex?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Absolutely.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: So, you know, in my practice as an OBGYN, I had been really well trained and felt really competent and confident about my skills in helping patients through pregnancy, really through infertility, any surgical needs, contraception, STI’s, all of that stuff was in my wheelhouse and I loved it. But what I was noticing is, you know, with my patients, they after some years once we had developed some trust, they would share with me. You know, Dr. Harper, I love my partner, I love my husband, but I don’t care if we ever have sex again. And this was not just one patient every once in a while. This was multiple patients every week. And unfortunately for those women, I had not been trained to help them in a way that was meaningful or that could help them through these times of life. And so that’s really where the need for Rosy and the idea for Rosy was born is the gap in the available care and resources for women with sexual problems. And, you know, over time, I did come to learn that there are evidence based interventions for these women. It’s just that their doctors aren’t trained and then therefore the information doesn’t get to the patients.
So that’s where for me, Rosy, you know, was was conceptualized and also brought to fruition. And, you know, I think it’s really important for leaders of of other people today to understand, you know, that sexuality is a core part of who all of us are.
Claire Haidar: And Lyndsey, that that is exactly why I wanted to have you on our podcast is because if you look at it just through an HR lens, and you look at it from a benefits perspective, you know, benefits companies understand are really important. And there’s a whole menu of benefits that companies are now providing to people. But you don’t see sexual health on that menu.
And yet it is such a core part, as you say, of who we are as humans and so to fundamentally ignore it is literally to always like carve out a piece of every human working in your workplace and ignoring that piece of them. You know, and as you say, there’s like so many societal norms and taboos wrapped about this topic that to think that it doesn’t impact the person walking into your workspace every morning is something that I don’t think leaders can ignore anymore.
Doug Foulkes: You said in the intro that that you’ve pivoted away more from the day to day practice and more into the world of sextech. How do you believe that this will change the world for the better?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Well, I think it’s really going to have an impact not only on the women that we serve and our users, but also, as you can imagine, you know, when when a woman has a sexual question or problem, if that problem, if she feels so isolated in that problem, if she doesn’t realize how common these things are, 38 percent of women have low sexual desire. Then she walks around with, you know, years and loads of unnecessary shame and embarrassment about these topics.
And that can lead to so many other effects, right? It leads to lower self-esteem. It leads to less connectedness. It leads to higher worry that your partner might, you know, stray from the relationship and, of course, increase rates of, you know, separation and divorce, which have obviously downstream effects on our families. So when, you know, we can address these issues with women very openly and honestly and respectfully and when we can deliver evidence based interventions for these women, then you know that that has the possibility of being life changing.
And what we know is that women, once they have the language and the permission to speak about sexual topics and problems freely, that they’re much more likely to get help for those issues. They’re much more likely to discuss it openly with their partners.
Doug Foulkes: I from my side now, looking, looking in, it certainly seems something that at the heart of it, you’re really looking at the individual and you’re looking at their relationships. But how does that relate into work? How does it impact work for the better?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Well, you can imagine, you know, if you have and had the unfortunate experience of, you know, going through a divorce or if you know anyone who has which, you know, half of the population then of married people, then, you know what just an absolute drain and strain that can be on a person. Right. Not only is it the time necessary to, you know, do all the paperwork, get all the get everything taken care of, it’s the monetary drain. It’s the, you know, emotional and intellectual capacity drain.
So just imagine if we can reduce, just simply speaking, the number of divorces of our workforce and what a boost of productivity and creativity that that would be a result of that because of the sort of removal of the strain that’s placed on people during those really stressful times.
Claire Haidar: You can almost just like see like a ripple impact, you know, like a ripple on a pond where you improve a woman’s sexuality that goes to her husband. So it’s not only her in her workplace that’s functional and better and healthier, but it impacts the husband. And that extends to, you know, all the full sexual spectrum. It ripples out like every person that that person is in relationship with gets impacted by the positiveness of this. And so I really, really do think we’re fully underestimating the strength of the positive impact that this really can have.
Sex and self-esteem are very closely interconnected and work and self-esteem have an equally close relationship. So how do you see those three playing together?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: You know, when a person has a strong sense of self, when a person feels confident both at work and in the bedroom, the levels of performance, the levels of satisfaction, the levels of connectedness, and in both of those places are much higher. And so, you know, it’s interesting because, you know, where does self-esteem where does self-confidence come from? Right.
It comes from, you know, taking tiny risks and being and having those tiny risks payoff. And then, you know, it comes from taking action. And the same applies at work and in the bedroom. Right. Are we able to feel safe? Are we able to feel supported whenever we take a small risk? And what is the outcome of that risk? Is it shame and blame if it goes wrong. Or is it, you know, an encouragement and support?
And I think that both situations, both sex and work, you know, it’s our responsibility as leaders and as partners to meet both situations with, you know, encouragement and respect for risk taking. And that is what builds self-confidence in both situations. And the more risks that we’re willing to take, maybe the more confidence that we can build at work and in the bedroom with our partners. And and that all feeds into one another, because if you have that experience in one situation, maybe you’re more likely to have it in the other as well.
Claire Haidar: Moving on to the next thing that I want to delve into, which is still related to this very topic is, one of the incredible powers of sextech, is that it is bringing humans back to their bodies, which is the whole point that I’ve just made. They’re starting to connect the dots between physical signals, mental patterns and needs.
I personally feel based on all the work that I’ve been doing my entire career, that in order for people to improve work, a similar coming together of the body needs to happen.
People need to understand how their physical body is reacting to work and the signals and the triggers that they experiencing in work.
Would you agree or disagree with that?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Not only at work, but even fundamental to health care in general? That that is absolutely necessary. I think the more that we as individuals and then collectively as organizations can identify, you know, how when we’re feeling a certain emotion, you know, how that shows up physically and how those things can all be related to the thoughts that are created by our brains and our certain circumstances that just has the power to unlock amazing potential, you know, at all levels, and so I really do think that the integration, when people can fully understand that, which we’re able to do on an individual level now using technology, that the power that lies there is is really huge.
And it doesn’t you know, I think it takes some practice. But once you’re able to start identifying patterns, those patterns can be interrupted pretty reliably just after, you know, a small amount of practice.
So it sounds really big and hard to attain. But actually, you know, when you start to do it, it the change happens more easily. So I would definitely agree that that’s important for health care, that’s important for sexuality, that’s important for work. And all of those things can be helped using, you know, attack these days for sure.
Claire Haidar: So talk about those those patterns that you’re referring to and how they can be interrupted. And, you know, please feel free to share a little bit specifically with, you know, with us about how Rosy works. I think it is really important for our listeners to understand how simple, yet profound these changes can be when they are so small and incremental.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Absolutely. So, you know, for example, within Rosy, when we’re speaking in a context of sexual function, you know, there’s many women who report low desire. And then because of that low desire for for a myriad of reasons, whenever their partner makes, makes a sweet advance, for example, a kiss or even just maybe a handhold or a hug or a touch, then the low desire partner will retreat and pull back. And it’s not because they are averse to the sweet gesture, to the kind and loving gesture, but it’s because they’re averse to what they think is coming next. Right? Which is the expectation for sex.
And so that pattern is can be very negative and disruptive and where the lower desire partner then pulls away from all physical touch, which then therefore worsens the problem. And I think that that, you know, situation or that set of circumstances can be applied in in work situations, you know, where we have a thought that we come into a meeting with or we come into a relationship with and that colors the entire interaction and maybe unnecessarily so.
So whenever we can identify that thought and maybe the physical sort of response we have to that thought, then we can really do the work to say, you know what, I am bringing my own story into this. And it actually has nothing to do with the motivation or the context of the other person and start to extricate those two things. Then I think that we can make, you know, work relationships and work productivity a lot more straightforward. It takes some introspection on both accounts, but that work can be done.
And once you’re aware of those things, it becomes much easier to do. Mm hmm.
Claire Haidar: And Lyndsey, you know, that’s where I actually see quite a bit of similarity between Pattyrn our product and Rosy in that sense, in that we’re identifying with Pattyn, those literal workflows that are happening in the background in companies because of the way people are working in SaaS applications that they may not even be aware of. You know, there’s so many bad habits that people bring in to tech and how they use it to work that they’re completely it’s completely subconscious. They’re not realizing that these things are happening.
And by unsurfacing those and actually just showing that to people immediately creates that shift in the brain where the neural activity goes; hang on a minute this is not as you say, I’m bringing my stuff into this and it’s actually not really helpful. You know, then you can very quickly through very, very small steps, just change it. And there’s so much power in that, like just changing, you know, those small things one at a time.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Awareness is such a big part of it. You know, that’s exactly what you’re talking about with Pattyrn that’s a lot of what we do with Rosy is, hey, you know, examine is this behavior serving me? Is it helping me to accomplish my stated goals? And if and if it’s not and then people are aware of that, then they’re very open to change because obviously that doesn’t make doesn’t make any logical sense. So I think that that’s very similar.
Claire Haidar: You know, that’s what excites me so much about the future of work as well, is that you used the word integration. I think we’re moving into a place and I think Covid in particular is actually just going to accelerate this forward, is that we’re looking at bringing a more integrated human and more whole human to work because we realize that if we do that, we will get better work results out of it. And part of that is, is unearthing, as you say, like making people aware of simple things that really impact how they’re working, you know, when they’re working, why they working in a certain way.
And it’s empowering because we’re moving work from this single dimensional lens of outputs. You know, I’m paid money to produce to I’m coming to work as a whole human to improve people around me, to grow as a human and to produce at the same time.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: I couldn’t agree more. And that’s really the way that we try to, you know, lead our team is, you know, if we can come to work as being integrated with our, you know, quote unquote “whole hearts” and we can really, you know, try to dig deeper when there’s a disagreement or when there’s a reaction that was unexpected and understand the context in which that was offered, that I think that not only does that go into increasing the output of the team, but it also goes into increasing the potential of the team.
Claire Haidar: I want to take the conversation a little bit to the dark side. You know, when you start bringing sex and work together in the same conversation, one of the knee jerk reactions that happens is workplace harassment comes up as a massive topic. And I mean, not in our too distant past, we’ve had and still are having the repercussions of the whole #metoo movement.
Talk to me about education around the topic of sex and specifically how that education needs to be playing out in workplaces today.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Yeah, I mean, there’s such a huge correlation between adequate and accurate education and, you know, the respect that we have for our own bodies and for others bodies. And so when we can offer, you know, actual legitimate and accurate nomenclature for body parts to our children, when we can teach them that, you know, their body is their own and they don’t have to accept hugs or tickles or kisses from anyone else, and that when someone else says stop that, that means stop no matter what.
Raising your children with those three fundamental sort of pieces can really change the way that they as individuals view their bodies and other people’s bodies. But also, you know, if we can raise a generation of children like that, then hopefully it’ll change the way society, you know, views agency and ownership over over someone else’s body. And so, you know, if we are not offered that right, our generation, I’ll speak for myself. I was not offered those things when I was growing up.Then we missed out on the fundamental changes in our brain that happen when we learn those those bits of information.
So I think that it’s exciting, you know, in the workplace to say and you may want to have it completely separate. You know, it doesn’t have to be integrated into into like a Monday morning meeting, but it could be a lunch and learn. It could be a book club. There could be so many opportunities for, you know, for leaders to take to take charge of this conversation and say, hey, I don’t know what I’m talking about, but this woman does or this expert does.
And then, you know, say as part of our, you know, sort of educational programming, this is what we’re going to talk about. And it doesn’t have to be anything emotional or sleazy or salacious. It can all be very fact based and that just those educational pieces can change, just like they changed the way that children are. They’re fundamental to forming the way that children think about themselves. They can change the way that adults think about themselves and other people as well.
Claire Haidar: I think one of the things that we often miss, if you look at the whole #metoo movement, as well as typical workplace harassment conversations that happen.
So whether that’s conferences, whether that’s HR briefings, you know, those type of things, I think we’re missing the the obligation piece that there is a whole bunch of education. So if you look at where the focus is right now in these areas, it’s very much on what I would call the legislative side of things. So it’s it’s naming the people that need to be named, you know, that are perpetrators in this area. And it’s very much bringing that that entire cycle to justice, which is a really critical piece.
And I’m not in any way downplaying it. But I think the more long lasting side of this is that education side.
And I like the fact that you’re using the word obligation, because I personally feel as a business owner that I do have an obligation towards my workforce to make this a topic of discussion, make this a thing inside the company that, hey, part of you coming to work as a whole being is that you’re a sexual being and, you know, bringing that education in. And as you say, it’s not necessarily appropriate for an all hands meeting, but it certainly can be factored in into so many other creative ways inside companies.
Doug Foulkes: Lyndsey, like many of us, you are an entrepreneur. You’re living in the same current reality that has changed dramatically over the last four to six months. How and what are you doing to prepare your company and your team for for work in the next two years?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: I think this has been such a an opportunity for us to really you know, we’ve we’ve talked about from the beginning which was a year ago, roughly, we hired our first employees in August of 2019 about the possibility of working remotely, about the flexibility that that confers and wouldn’t that be great? Was sort of the sort of the mantra. And then, of course, you know, like many companies who were not working remotely before, we were all of a sudden thrust into the realities of that.
The possibility for the choice of remote work is now firmly in place within our organization. And we feel confident that we could accomplish those those tasks with at least as much efficiency as we did before. And so in that way, I think that there’s opportunities for us that were not there before. I think that, you know, we’re able to expand our our hiring opportunities. We’re able to, you know, optimize content recording in ways that weren’t possible and involved a lot of travel before.
So it’s forced us to think outside of our previously self-imposed constraints. And I think that in the long run, it will actually help us to operate much more efficiently and cost effectively.
Claire Haidar: Before we move completely off of the the topic of Covid, I want to ask you just a random out of the box question here Lindsey, Pandemic’s bring gifts.
And I’m specifically asking you this question because you’re a doctor. So you’re viewing this not only through the lens of a CEO, but also as a doctor, as a medical profession. So you’re experiencing this very differently to the average person on the street who doesn’t have the medical background that you do.
There’s gifts. They’re not necessarily very obvious right now. But what do you think it is that we have been gifted through going through this pandemic as a globe?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: There’s probably more than one gift. I think that it’s offering us an opportunity to sort of sit still that that personally I would have never probably taken full advantage of.
I love to go, go, go. I love to travel. I love to be super in my mind, efficient and productive, as you know Claire. But but you know what? Sometimes, you know, the world has different ideas. And I think this is one of those times where no matter how much we want to push against that intrinsic need to go, we can’t. Right? And we have to sit with that. And we have to really examine why is it that we feel that way?
What about our culture? Our own internal sort of beliefs makes us think that that is the only way to, you know, to proceed and be successful. And so for me, I’m trying to take advantage of that in every way that we can. You know, I think that the pace of life that our family was living prior to this is was crazy. I recognize it at the time. But now this there is such an opportunity to to kind of press pause, take a minute and be with our families more.
But also, it requires a lot of creative thinking. Right. Which is something that as entrepreneurs, we pride ourselves in. But this is a new level. Right. How do we continue to get our message across? How do we continue to connect with customers? There’s some opportunity in that or some some solace is that we’re all going through the same thing and there will be companies that figure it out and there will be companies that won’t. And, you know, I know that, you know, at least you and I want to be the ones that do.
And so I think that, you know, that opportunity for creative thinking really is is a good thing as well.
Claire Haidar: Naturally, having to sit at home with your family is going to highlight if there’s sexual dysfunction in your relationship. Have you guys seen any of that data surfacing in Rosy’s usage over the last few months? And do you think that it’s it’s shaped some of the offerings that you guys are bringing out?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Rosy is a is a freemium app, so there’s a free version of it and a paid version of it. And during Covid our subscription rates have doubled actually. So of the users that are engaged with Rosy, you know, they’re much more likely to do so in a serious and committed manner. So we, you know, our, our casual users have have really committed to you know what, I’ve got some maybe some extra time or maybe there’s maybe there’s a, you know, a more pressing motivator at play there, which is maybe my you know, my relationship is more stressed than it was. And I really am willing to make the investment both physically and, you know, have time to to work towards these things. So that’s been very encouraging.
Another piece that’s been that I love in the data is that, you know, Rosy has lots of components that are all evidence based, and one of them is erotica, which is just, you know, like written stories that have romantic interludes, basically. And this is evidence base to improve desire. And our erotica usage has really gone through the roof during the pandemic as well, and you know,
Claire Haidar: It is facinating.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: I know, I know it is fascinating. I love that piece of it because it really shows that people are, you know, willing to explore, they’re willing to try new things. And we know from research that that is what leads to successful long term sexual relationships.
And so I just love that our readers and our users, rather, are understanding that message and taking full advantage of it.
Doug Foulkes: Lyndsey, we’re coming towards the end of all time. Before I hand over to Claire just to finish off with the last couple of questions, I’d just like to ask you how you’ve personally changed how you work as a CEO in this current work environment.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: I love to to get things done and across things off the list. But this I have really had to do some self reflection and understand that it’s up to me as a leader to bring the team together from wherever we are working. And that takes an investment of, you know, of energy and have time and things that don’t necessarily seem to me in my previous sort of life as as necessary are actually very imperative. So taking time to just socialize with the team, taking time to connect for, you know, lunches or for meetings, really encouraging team members as often as possible to be on video and not just audio so that we can you know, there’s so much to to body language and facial sort of signals and just really finding ways for the team to understand the importance of that connection and then also to implement it while we’re all, you know, in a high stress time where, you know, we launch some new features during this time, we’ve we’ve had a lot going on.
And it’s really important to take time for that piece of connection that we missed out on, you know, when we’re not in the office.
Claire Haidar: If you were through the lens of a doctor, but also the context of this whole conversation, somebody working towards making the world a place where people are bringing more of the whole selves to work. What would some of the tips be that you would give people, around how they should be approaching their average working day?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: You know, I think it’s interesting. Some of the the thought work actually that we talked about earlier, which is to try to do some introspection and to think, you know, if you’re if you have a feeling right. If you’re feeling a certain way, whether it’s anxious, whether it’s tired, whether it’s disconnected, to really try to get to the root of that feeling and understand why it exists. Because I think during this time specifically, those feelings are very present and apparent and pervasive and can affect our relationships, our sexual relationships and also our our working relationships and productivity.
And so I think the more time that we allow for ourselves, right, the more space that we allow for introspection, the more opportunity there is to kind of get to the root of that. Where is that coming from? Is it is it that I feel anxious about my family’s safety in the midst of a pandemic? Is it that I, you know, have got to get out of here and go, well, if that’s the case, why like, what is it that’s driving these negative feelings?
And then if you can really take the opportunity to work through those, I think it will help, as we said Claire, to be really integrated when you’re trying to be present with your with your friendships, with your children, with your, you know, intimate partners and with your working relationships. Covid is really kind of a stress test. Right. We’re kind of on a treadmill asking to and the doctor’s asking us to run for, you know, however an hour feels like.
But, you know, it really highlights the opportunities that we have to improve ourselves as individuals, as organizations and as partners as well.
Claire Haidar: We need to realize that every single human being around us, like literally the stranger driving next to us down the highway right now; is pretty much in that like high stress cortisol release state. And it’s simply because of the massive unknown that we all facing every day. I think recognizing that for ourselves and being gentle with ourselves and as you say, taking that time, it’s just so critical because it’s also about the time that you take actually kicks your body out of that that stress reaction mode and helps you to to get back to the functional state that we should all be trying to be in.
Just to close this off, what are the things that you want us, myself and all of our listeners, to really be caring about deeply with regards to work in the next two years?
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: But, you know, I think that one of the most important things that we can do as leaders is really recognize sort of the beautiful and distinct individuality of each of the people that quit their previous job, came and had faith in us as leaders and in our missions as companies and show up, you know, to to contribute significantly every day. Despite what’s going on in their personal lives, despite what’s going on in the world around us, you know, harking back to the work that I do, sexuality is a piece of that. We cannot ignore it, just like we cannot ignore mental health. We cannot ignore our physical health, financial stressors, all these things that that may be going on in the individual lives of our employees.
And we have to find, you know, safe spaces where we can really support these these parts of the of the people that have all of this faith and trust in us. And we have to do our part to live up to that responsibility.
Claire Haidar: Lyndsey, thank you so much for taking this time. Really appreciate it. And exceptionally excited about what you guys are building and and doing with Rosy. Particularly excited about the Telehealth piece that you guys are launching, as well as the classes that you mentioned to us. You know, the classes for cancer patients, classes for people who are experiencing sexual pain, females going through menopause, and the very interesting one around religion and how it impacts our sexuality.
And the reason why I’m particularly excited about those pieces and I’m highlighting them on the podcast is because I think these things that you guys are introducing now into Rosy as part of your offerings are actually some of the things that corporates and particularly workplaces are really going to be able to gravitate towards and make this part of their benefits offering, which I think is just going to further our aims to make the world a better place.
So all the best with those endeavors. And thank you for all that you’re doing for the world.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper: Well, thank you, Claire. Thanks for having me. And thanks for planting so many of the seeds that we talked about today and my mind to begin with. And I’m just so, you know, appreciative to you and Doug as well for all the work that you all do. So thanks so much.
Doug Foulkes: Okay, so there you have it, sextech and the future of work. Two things I never thought I’d say in the same sentence.
Lyndsey from my side, thank you very much for your time. And putting that this time aside. Claire, as always, thank you for arranging, organising everything. That’s all we have time for today, but certainly looking forward to seeing you back for more top of mind conversation soon.
Be safe out there.