Kate Taylor is the founder of the Dorset-based company, Evenly, that’s on a mission to provide effective and innovative non-surgical solutions to the challenges of breast asymmetry, no matter what the cause. Kate is the winner of Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award for 2020/21, having developed a bra design that tackles breast asymmetry, an issue affecting 90% of women. Evenly’s positive messaging seeks to reassure women that they’re not abnormal or different, but rather uniquely and beautifully individual.
“Evenly is uniquely dedicated to breast asymmetry no matter what the cause and I believe that it is the bra that needs to be ‘fixed’, not the body.”
Educational background and career to date
Prior to starting Evenly, I worked in the incredibly male-dominated industry of IT. I have a 1st class honours degree in computing and IT from the University of Surrey and my first job was working as a programmer for IBM.
I gradually transitioned away from traditional IT projects into the world of digital marketing where I worked across the UK, Canada and Australia for a number of marketing agencies and in-house for brands such as Lush Cosmetics, WWF and the RNLI. Prior to starting Evenly, I was working freelance as an IT and digital marketing consultant and in 2020 I was named one of the British Interactive Media Association’s BIMA 100, an annual countdown of the 100 most influential people in digital and tech in the UK, for my work developing a palliative care app for hospice patients.
The idea for Evenly first came into my mind in 2014 whilst I was living in Australia, and it started with shoes, not bras! At the time I was wearing a lot of slip-on ballet flat shoes and because I have one foot slightly smaller than the other, I was getting frustrated as one of my shoes was constantly falling off.
I had always wanted to have my own product business, and for many years kept a notebook full of potential ideas, so I decided to look into starting a business selling mismatched size shoes, but when I started running the idea past friends, a lot of the women exclaimed: “Shoes aren’t my biggest problem, bras are!”
Like the majority of women, I have a difference in breast size but assumed it was an issue unique to me and made do by tightening my bra strap on one side and doing my best to disguise it in foam cup bras. How was I to know I was in the majority when all we typically see in lingerie advertising are perfectly round, perfectly symmetrical breasts? Suddenly my eyes were opened to the misleading reality a lot of us have been exposed to and I got to work on creating the perfect solution.
Breast asymmetry as a health issue
As I began researching the situation, I discovered that, according to JW Maliniak (in research dating back to 1934), no woman has perfectly symmetrical breasts. Some women have asymmetrical breasts as a result of breast cancer surgeries or congenital conditions such as Poland Syndrome, however, the majority of breast asymmetry is of entirely natural healthy causes such as breast-feeding, puberty, perimenopause or weight changes.
The health impacts of asymmetrical breasts are far-reaching, from neck and back pain caused by the failure of a symmetrical bra to adequately balance the weight of both breasts to the huge psychological and mental health impacts of an asymmetrical appearance and lack of confidence. Studies by Neto, et al. (2007) and Nuzzi, et al. (2014, 2020) demonstrate the severe impacts of breast asymmetry on self-esteem and quality of life and emphasise that breast asymmetry is more than just a cosmetic issue.
Prior to the pandemic, NHS funding for breast surgery was already low. Information published by the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead in 2017 states: “Non-oncological breast surgery is not routinely funded. At this present time the Clinical Commissioning Groups decide what will and will not be funded within the NHS and the majority of breast surgery is considered low priority and many applications for funding are denied.” However, since COVID-19, breast reconstruction surgeries for oncology patients have also become severely delayed increasing the adverse effects of breast asymmetry at a time when, due to increased job losses, women are unlikely to be able to afford private surgery.
Recognition from Innovate UK
I was honoured to receive an Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award for 2020/21 for my work on Evenly, the prize for which was a £50k grant. Winning the award was a huge privilege to me personally but I also see it as a huge boost to the millions of women globally who are struggling with the impacts of severe breast asymmetry. Breast asymmetry has finally been recognised as an important issue with very real impacts on women’s lives and the award win demonstrates that it is considered an area of innovation worthy of the government’s support and investment.
I was also awarded a Purple Plaque at my old high school, Wycombe High, for which I am extremely proud and I hope the Women in Innovation Award scheme will fulfil its mission to inspire many more girls and women into innovation and entrepreneurship.
Channelling success into growth
The £50k grant that I won with the award allowed me to finalise the bra research and design and seek a patent application. I am now seeking bra retailers and manufacturers who are interested in licensing the design to bring these much-needed bras to market. Whilst the bra research and development work continued, I wanted to launch a breast asymmetry brand and create a product I could bring to market sooner myself to give women solutions I knew they were seeking.
I began designing the Bra Balancer™ ranges and scoping out the manufacturing in early 2020 and by October of that year, whilst the pandemic was in full swing, I began retailing them directly to customers online at evenlybreasts.com. My first few orders were from customers in the UK, Australia, USA, Canada and the Philippines. Women quickly started joining Evenly’s free breast asymmetry support group on Facebook — The Uneven Titty Committee — and opening up about their struggles so I knew Evenly was going to be able to make a real difference to women’s lives.
The Bra Balancer™ helps to alleviate the musculoskeletal issues that come from breast asymmetry by using a silicone breast form to mimic the size, shape and weight of the larger breast – balancing a standard symmetrical bra out. Each Bra Balancer™ is a clear breast form shape so it works for women with different skin tones and sits invisibly under clothing or swimwear. The aim is to make women feel good and give them confidence and a community where they know they are not alone and their bodies are beautiful.
Evenly is uniquely dedicated to breast asymmetry no matter what the cause and I believe that it is the bra that needs to be ‘fixed’, not the body. Breast asymmetry can be caused by several factors – our breasts are sisters, not twins and they change as we go through life changes.
Giving visibility to invisible women
As a woman working within the IT industry, I have been a minority and a champion for equality, diversity and inclusion for my entire career. Since university, where I came second in a class of over 100 (almost exclusively male) students and secured a highly coveted industrial placement and then a graduate job at IBM, I have been proud to represent women in IT and be a role model for others.
Upon graduating from university, I was the first-ever recent graduate asked to join the Computing Department’s Industrial Advisory Board, where I represented the needs of the IT industry to those deciding future degree curriculums. Here I was especially passionate about representing the severe lack of women in the subject, the dire consequences of this on the industry and questioning how we could attract more women and address the imbalance.
Whilst at IBM, I volunteered as a woman in STEM ambassador, where I mentored school girls and played an active role in encouraging their interest in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.
Following IBM, I went on to work for several diverse organisations across the UK, Australia and Canada. In 2017 I founded my first company through which I worked as an IT consultant and project management professional, whilst also undertaking research and development work on my bra innovation.
Reading ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men’ by Caroline Criado-Perez (2019) was a real motivation for me in pursuing a solution to the needs of women with breast asymmetry. The under-representation of women in innovation is damaging not only to the economy (as evidenced by The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship) but also means there are fewer products out there designed specifically by women, for women. This means solutions to female-centric issues are severely lacking.
I am passionate about using my brand and my journey to inspire more women into innovation who I know can create viable solutions for the many other health, economic and societal issues facing women globally today.
Embracing the female entrepreneurship community
My advice to other women seeking to develop and launch innovative new products and services is to embrace the female entrepreneurship community and the shared learning available to them. I have found platforms and communities like Womanthology and Buy Women Built to be so incredibly inspiring and helpful in my journey as an entrepreneur. They are friendly, welcoming spaces where women are willing to share their learnings and mistakes in order to help others. We lift each other up and see each other as peers and collaborators rather than competition.
Coming up next
There are many really exciting opportunities for Evenly on the horizon. I am looking forward to growing distribution of the products through partnerships with lingerie brands and retailers, both in the UK and abroad. I am also really excited about the idea of more women discovering the brand and knowing they’re not alone with asymmetry. I hope they’ll join us in our mission to #BreakTheTaboob around the topic and finally feel happy and comfortable in their body.