‘Pink tax’: Why women pay more for products and services

Jessica Satherley
‘Pink tax’: Why women pay more for products and services

The concept of a ‘pink tax’, where women are charged more for the equivalent products and services as men, has been reported on since the 1990s. But a recent survey shows that gender-based price discrimination is still rife across various industries.

When looking at 10 personal care products such as deodorants and shaving products for men and women, five of those categories had higher retail prices for the female version, a recent US study reported.

In New Zealand, women battle higher retail prices as well with products such as disposable razors costing approximately 7% more than the male equivalent from the same brands.

When it comes to services such as hair salon prices, the majority of outlets have a different price list for men and women. When looking at three top-rated hair salon chains in Auckland, the discrepancy ranged between $21 and $58 between women and men’s cuts.

Whether the cuts were with a stylist, senior stylist or creative director, across each price list the women were all consistently charged more than men.

When asked why the women’s prices were higher, one salon receptionist said: “It’s just always been that way.”

“A women’s hair cut is more complex and takes more time,” another salon’s receptionist said.

Instead of taking into consideration that a man could have a longer, more stylised cut than a women with short hair, these salons seem to be content on dividing prices based on gender.

Haircare products such as shampoo and conditioner were also found to have one of the biggest differences in price in the recent US study, with women paying 48% more than men.

Overall the price gap between male and female products was found to average 7%, according to the study.

Not all Kiwi businesses are charging higher prices for women though. Auckland hair salon I’m Not A Barber, run by a Hong Kong expat, prices both men’s and ladies’ style cuts at $28, and BlowUp Hairdressing in Wellington is also using a gender-neutral pricing structure.

Managing director of BlowUp, Matthew Kane, has been following a pricing structure based on length of hair and time of service since the 1990s, due to working in Toronto’s LGBT community in Canada.

“We had some clients that were men with fabulous hair that took a lot of time and some clients that were female just wanting a simple short back and sides, therefore the gender based model was a major disadvantage to the business,” Kane, who is a Westpac customer, said.

“I have since moved from Canada to New Zealand and kept this policy as more of society is going in this direction anyway. The pricing policy reflects the clients’ individual needs and the amount of time we have spent with them,” he added.

Research on gender price discrepancies dates back to 1994, in which a report from California estimated that women pay an extra $1,351USD per annum on higher priced consumer goods. In 2015 New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs reported that women’s products were on average 7% more expensive, and in this past year the numbers do not seem to have changed.

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