The Pink Tax: how women are charged more on products from mortgages to moisturiser
The Pink Tax, as this phenomenon is known, has been around for years and manufacturers tend to justify it by saying female products have more expensive formulas, fancier packaging and more complex fragrances than the male alternative.
Government figures show that, in some cases, women’s products were 34% more expensive than those aimed at men. Think razors in pink packaging that cost more than the blue “manly’ equivalent.
The likes of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, moisturiser and scent often sell at higher prices than near identical products for men.
But as traditional gender roles and identification are being re-evaluated all around us, the existence of such an unfair and hidden tax is even more preposterous than ever.
Defending the price difference
The manufacturers defend gender price differences, arguing that products targeted at women include more expensive ingredients, formulas, fragrances and packaging.
Meanwhile, the hefty difference in the price of haircuts for men and women is put down to the extra time needed to cut and finish women’s hairstyles.
The higher cost of dry-cleaning women’s shirts versus men’s is also explained by the extra work involved.
You see, men’s shirts come in standard shapes that fit shirt-finishing machines, whereas women’s blouses need ironing by hand.
Yet a woman taking her button-down shirts to be cleaned is unlikely to be offered cheaper male rates. Go figure.
Women and girls often pay a third more than men for basic products including toiletries, clothes and haircuts
Lifetime impact on women and girls
Price discrimination starts early, with differing costs for children’s toys, clothes, socks and school uniform.
The cost difference on basic products may be relatively small, but over a lifetime it adds up.
The Pink Tax is yet another nail in the coffin of financial equality, on top of the gender pay and pension gaps, and the disproportionate impact of Covid restrictions on women’s economic circumstances.
Women’s financial disadvantages can also create bigger differences than a few pence on shampoo or a few pounds on perfume.
Women pay thousands of pounds more to borrow money than men, according to research by financial services firm Credit Karma.
Women end up with lower average credit scores because they are less likely to use products that help build their credit profile, or use products taken out in their partner’s name.
The gender pay gap and concentration of women in part-time and lower-paid roles also make it more difficult to get mortgages in their own name in the first place.
Lower salaries make it harder to save large deposits, and restrict borrowing based on income multiples.
Avoiding the Pink Tax
If you want to avoid paying over the odds as a woman, there are ways to fight back.
Don’t pick up pink packaging on autopilot but compare prices across all options.
Where the only difference is colour, another product will do the job just as well. Personally, I snapped up a particularly fetching black and red iron when it was selling for substantially less than white and pastel models.
Where the fragrance differs, keep an open mind when trying out male alternatives. You may find you actually prefer the ‘for men’ version of a perfume or can find unscented deodorants at lower prices.
With hair and skincare products, check out the active ingredient, then look for the best deal.
For example, vitamin C moisturisers and retinol anti-ageing serums may cost less in the male ranges.
Extend clothes shopping to male sections too, scoping out smaller sizes of basics like t-shirts and socks.
Pile on the pressure
Finally, contact manufacturers and retailers if you spot price hikes on products for women, and shout about it on social media.
Consumer pressure can pay off.
Back in 2016, a petition challenging Boots for sexist pricing, such as eye cream selling at £9.99 for women but £7.20 for men, attracted almost 45,000 signatures.
Boots subsequently reviewed the situation and changed some own-brand prices.
More recently, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine introduced a private members bill in 2019, designed to end gender-based pricing, although it did not gain government backing.
The UK also finally abolished the ‘tampon tax’ at the start of 2021.
Tampons and other women’s sanitary products are no longer classed as non-essential luxury products, removing 5% VAT and saving the average woman £40 over her lifetime
3 things to do right now...
Compare prices across all options, not just those marketed for women.
Ask for cheaper male prices when requesting similar services, such as trimming a short hair cut or dry-cleaning button-down shirts
If you spot price hikes on products for women, contact the companies and shout about it on social media. Consumer pressure can pay off.
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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.