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The pink tax: why women pay more and what we can do about it

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:

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.

That’s jacked.

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.

4 thoughts on “The pink tax: why women pay more and what we can do about it”

  • I agree with you on most of this. Maybe not the gender pay gao bit. Women don’t “usually earn less than men thanks to the gender pay gap” – they earn less than men thanks to the choices they usually make that then causes this ”pay gap”

    And if people are still buying it, then companies have the right to sell it at a higher price. But like you said, people should speak with their money or call companies out for doing it.

    And wait a minute, since when was pink a girls colour? ?

  • I agree with you on some of what you’ve said here. I don’t agree that things should be more expensive purely because it’s pink or aimed at girls. But I guess that’s what companies have the freedom to do. It’s all about people refusing to pay for those things and speaking with their money and through exposing it with posts like this.

    But I would disagree with the notion of “women usually earn less than men thanks to the gender pay gap” – women usually earn less than men because of the choices they make that lead to this ‘pay gap’. Of course it’s more complicated than that, but I’m firmly in the camp of the gender pay gap being a myth. That’s the only thing I don’t really agree with on this. Other than that I think it’s great that you’re talking about this as I didn’t really even think about it as I’ve never personally seen it.

    • Thanks for your comment – we’re going to have to disagree on the gender pay gap being a myth, though. It’s a real thing with very complicated causes, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that childcare isn’t shared equally in most families. Women are more likely to work part time after having kids, and this can have long-lasting effects on their earnings, even once they return to full-time work. There’s also a lack of flexibility in senior roles that prevent women with childcare responsibilities from taking them. Some women may actively choose to stay home with children despite the impact is has on their career – which is fine – but it’s often not as simple as that.

      • Yep, totally agree with you that it’s complicated. But I would argue that childcare in the family is usually a choice. At the end of the day it’s up the couple most of the time as to who reduces their hours and spends more time at home. We do have the shared parental leave, even if the take up was somewhere around 2%, which isn’t very good at all. I’d agree with you that more needs to be done to equal that out, but at the end of the day, if there aren’t many men who want it, and not many women who want to share it out, then you can’t do much other than give them that choice.

        My main thing was just the fact you seemed to blame the gender pay gap for the fact that women make less. Which I see where you’re coming from, but it’s not the pay gap’s fault. It’s just there because of those choices.

        Sorry for the late reply and the duplicate comments! I don’t always get the notifications through on my WordPress. It’s always good to have a chat about these things though.

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