The pink tax: why women pay more and what we can do about it
I recently got drawn into a bit of an online debate about the ‘pink tax’ after retweeting this post:
This experience made me realise that some people haven’t heard of the pink tax, or don’t seem to believe that it exists. So, for all you pink tax newbies or doubters, here’s handy guide to all things pink tax and why it’s so messed up.
What is the pink tax?
The pink tax is a form of gender-based price discrimination, where stores charge more for items that are pink or clearly aimed at women/girls.
So shops literally charge more for products just because they’re pink?
Yup, sometimes. The toddler cutlery at Boots is just one example of this – I found several more examples after searching on Amazon for just a few minutes:
- The blue version of this helmet costs £12.45 and the pink version costs £12.99
- This blue owl backpack costs £5.79, while the pink version costs £5.99
- Pink Paw Patrol pajamas featuring Skye cost £11.95, while blue Paw Patrol pajamas featuring Chase, Marshall and Rubble cost £9.99
- This blue scooter is £32.99 and the pink version is £34.99
Umm…why? It’s not like it costs more to make something pink.
You’re right – it doesn’t. But women are seen as being more brand loyal, so marketers may think that they they’re willing to pay more for items that are tailored to them.
Indeed – especially when it comes to children’s products. We also need to remember that women usually earn less than men thanks to the gender pay gap, so the pink tax is just adding insult to injury.
And here’s the really crazy bit – some items marketed to women actually contain less of a product but cost MORE. Manufacturers make the product smaller and more feminine-looking, a process referred to as “shrink it and pink it.”
Surely charging women higher prices for essentially the same items can’t be legal.
It usually is, actually. Retailers can’t legally announce and charge different prices to men and women. But if they think one group is less price sensitive than another, then they can alter products slightly and charge a higher price.
How much more are women paying for things?
On average, products for women and girls cost 7% more than equivalent products aimed at men/boys. Women pay:
- 7% more for toys and accessories
- 4% more for children’s clothing
- 8% more for adult clothing
- 13% more for personal care products
- 8% more for senior/home health care products
Wait a minute. I bet guys sometimes pay more for stuff too.
You’re right – sometimes they do. Products that are aimed at men/boys can cost more than the equivalent female products, but research showed that women pay more 42% of the time, while men only pay more 18% of the time.
Maybe it’s women’s fault for being willing to pay more for pink lady crap. Why don’t they just buy the male version if it’s cheaper?
Women may not realise that the male version of an item that they want to purchase is less expensive – otherwise, they probably would buy it. They might assume – quite reasonably – that products made of equivalent materials/ingredients would cost the same price.
I’m convinced. What can I do about this?
If you spot a company charging more for something just because it’s pink or aimed at females, call them out on it. Companies hate being publicly shamed, especially on Twitter. Let Toys Be Toys and Let Clothes Be Clothes are great campaigns aimed at ending stereotyping in children’s toys and clothing, and they’ll often retweet examples of obvious gender discrimination.
Fight with your wallet. Compare prices of men’s and women’s items (even though you shouldn’t really have to) and don’t support companies that charge more for pink products for no reason.
Spread the word. Tell your girlfriends, your mother, your sister, that old lady who lives next door that the pink tax is a thing, and make sure they know to look out for it. Let’s stick it to the man, ladies.