My purse is in pain
It puts quite a strain
On the life that I know
Because, well, my cash flow
Is more of a trickle
And now I’m in a pickle
I just about make ends meet
I need help. I’m pretty beat.
Happy International Women’s Day – it’s this Tuesday – and apologies for my prose, but I want you to think about this: over her lifetime, my imaginary friend from the poem will pay thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars more to buy products similar to those that men use.
Women pay gender tax. I do not know how much it is today, but back in 1994, the state of California studied the issue of gender-based pricing and found it cost women an average of US$1,351 every year. There is no male equivalent, and there is no law against it.
Add to this that she earns less than her male counterparts and needs it to stretch further to cover not only gender tax, but also the cost of hygiene products that are women-specific, and grooming to keep up with social norms.
Little wonder she’s beat.
My one point today is this: women need price parity. Then one day, other parities might come about. If this doesn’t happen, women, paying this pink tax as well as a social tax, will end up even more tired, financially stretched and generally beat – and that’s not good for them, their families, employers or society in general.
There’s a great study out titled From Cradle To Cane, the Cost of Being a Female Consumer.
The bottom line is that women’s personal financial bottom line is lower. Because everything costs women more. Oh, and did I mention that they earn less too?
This New York-centric study looked at nearly 800 products that have male and female versions and found that women pay, on average, 7 per cent more than their male counterparts.
Here is the breakdown of cost for female versus male products:
• 7 per cent more for toys and accessories
• 4 per cent more for children’s clothing
• 8 per cent more for adult clothing
• 13 per cent more for personal care products
• 8 per cent more for senior/home healthcare products
This last one is especially shocking – not only because women are charged more every year, but because they’ll have to pay it for many more years than men, as they tend to live longer.
Yes, I’ve come across arguments stating that making certain products female-friendly adds to the cost. Not always. And even if so, I would argue that it’s time companies look at what it means and costs to be female in general, and price their products accordingly, assuming they care at all about the well-being of their female customers and society as a whole.
Then again, perhaps pink purse pain is a new way of keeping women where they belong – out of decision-making positions because they’re too busy making ends meet. Hmmm.
People bang on about women’s empowerment. Well, I propose that financial empowerment is where it’s at – the option of not only earning, but keeping money in women’s lives. Only then will women have choice, and an element of control or freedom over how they live.
This Women’s Day, one very simple but powerful thing you can do to help is to demand price parity.
The marketing philosophy of pink it and shrink it – and charge more as a result – has to end.
As for price equity – that’s a whole different ball game. It’s the idea that women should earn more than men because the cost of their uniforms of life are that more expensive – stockings or tights, personal grooming (who for? who should pay? And how much. A discussion for another time).
The debate over social norms and gender equity will continue. I’m hoping that we can bring about one practical change at a time. In this spirit I’m personally calling for price parity. You can vote with your wallets. Support companies and products that champion and do this. A Google search reveals zero companies that have it as a deliberate strategy, but there’s a simple thing you can do every time you shop – look at the cost of the male and female versions of what you’re out to buy, and choose the brand that has no difference in price. If you’re a woman and a man’s product is cheaper, why not choose it over the one you’re likely conditioned to reach for? I’ll wear a beautiful crisp man’s shirt any day of the week, and it costs less to have it drycleaned too.
Paying the same for similar products means more money in women’s pockets, which means more parity in general – at some point. Help make women’s purses more pain-free with price parity.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website cashy.me. You can reach her at email@example.com and find her on Twitter at @nimaabuwardeh.
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