Beware, ladies: the “pink tax” is real. In fact, it’s more common than you think.
For those unfamiliar with this term, it refers to the unofficial extra charge intentionally marketed towards women’s products and services, although they're marketed to men at a lower cost.
Through the vast commentary on social media and television, this issue has been a popular topic in recent years. Ellen DeGeneres aired a spoof commercial satirically criticizing the gendered price discrepancy in Bic’s “For Her” pens.
Bic's “For Her” pens are the same in quality as other Bic pens, but the only difference is the feminine colours they come in. Yet, they are twice as much as Bic’s average pens.
June Cotte, professor in marketing at the Richard Ivey School of Business, says this common occurrence comes from “classic marketing.”
“They’re targeting a group and that group is willing to pay a higher price because it seems fit for them,” she says.
Cotte adds this gendered pricing comes in all forms, from haircuts to toys and even to dry-cleaning.
“If a woman and a man go in to a salon and both have short hair, they should both have the same price for hair cuts, but they don’t,” Cotte says.
Many companies have easy-to-find instances of pink taxing. At Wal-Mart, the Lady’s Speed Stick Power and the male Speed Stick Power deordorants both sell for $2.57, but the male merchandise actually contains 20 grams more of product.
Pink taxing can even be seen on-campus at Western's pharmacy.
A pack of women’s razor heads from Gillette Venus costs $29.99, while the men’s version of this product from Gillette Fusion costs $26.99. The products are essentially the same besides their names — both are five-bladed and come in a pack of four.
There is even more of a price gap for moisturizers. Neutrogena’s face lotion for men with 20 SPF retails for $8.99, whereas the same brand’s facial moisturizer for women with 15 SPF was $16.99.
“Facial moisturizer” seems to be a fancier way of saying “face lotion” because both these products have the same written function to “soothe” and “protect” the skin.
Western pharmacist Shafeek Roberts explains this price differentiation is a product of the base price set by the wholesaler, and is beyond his control.
"It’s just acquisition costs," Roberts says. "That is not something we decide on, saying 'a male product should be higher than a female product.' It all depends on what we pay for and that’s determined by the wholesaler, who then buys it from the manufacturer."
Roberts says the pharmacy's pricing is purely based on how expensive the product is instead of internal decisions at the University.
Karen Hu, a fourth-year HBA Ivey student, says this difference in cost goes beyond manufacturing.
"Companies typically market more premium lines for women through mostly packaging, even though male and female products are usually manufactured the same way,” she says.
Cotte says the reason for such public outrage about the “pink tax” is because many people see this as unfair pricing that is linked to stereotypes of women.
“Companies know that women will pay more and so they’re taking advantage of that, and that’s where there’s been a lot of the backlash,” says Cotte.
She adds the visibility of the pink tax is often criticized and that women should familiarize themselves with the retail landscape.
“If you’re only shopping at the women’s section or the girls’ section of a toy store, you might not be aware that there is this differential pricing.”
However, Cotte notes there are women who are willing to pay the price premium on gendered products.
Alice Tam, a medical science student at Western, is among those women.
“The difference in price doesn’t really affect my spending on things," says Tam.
If you’re looking to beat the pink tax, awareness is key and it may be beneficial to look at the quality over the fluorescent pink packaging of products.
With files from Samah Ali.