It’s no secret that, on average, women make less than men, but they also have to spend more — especially if they’re looking to be taken seriously as professionals.
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Some of these hidden costs can be curbed, but others require greater societal and even governmental change. Hackable or not, none of these fine-print costs are fair and we must all work to see their end.
The Pink Tax
“Women [often] have to pay more than men for the same product,” said Ana Gonzalez Herrera, founder and CEO of Hormone University. “This is easy to check in hygiene, cosmetic and personal care products. The discrepancy is known as the pink tax, which is nothing less than a business practice that ‘taxes’ products aimed at a female target audience with higher prices. All you have to do is visit the supermarket and compare the prices of the same product for him and her. Like deodorants, for example. In most cases, this extra cost for products aimed at women is simply based on a difference in color: Pink.”
“As someone who called in sick to a retail job, was told to come in anyway, and then later sent home because I ‘looked like a cancer patient’ as I wasn’t wearing makeup, it’s safe to say women are widely expected to wear makeup to look put together and professional at every turn, even in an office on casual Friday,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.
Until society wakes up completely to the fact that women don’t need a radiant complexion to be at their best, women can save by sticking to simple and multipurpose makeup.
“Whatever your makeup routine is, try to streamline it,” Ramhold said. “Maybe that means having multipurpose cosmetics, like tints that double for cheeks and lips, or a simple eyeshadow crayon you can swipe over your lids. Additionally, find brands you like and shop them when they’re on sale.”
An Abundance of Clothes
“Men can get away with one or two suits, a variety of button-up shirts, and a handful of ties to wear day-to-day,” Ramhold said. “Women, on the other hand, are expected to have their own suits, dresses, blouses, dress pants, button-ups in a number of colors, and more.”
Women who are feeling pressured to own a wide array of clothing should embrace the capsule wardrobe which values quality over quantity and revolves around basics that can be used for several types of outfits.
“These days, you can easily build a work wardrobe with a few pairs of dress pants, maybe a skirt or two, and quality-made button-up shirts to pair with a blazer or nice sweater,” Ramhold said. “You don’t have to have different blouses for every day of the week through every season.”
“Like clothing, men can usually get away with having a few pairs of shoes in their closets,” Ramhold said, “[While] women often end up with pumps (sometimes of varying heights), flats, runners, casual slip-ons, sandals, boots, and potentially more — all in an effort to have something to go with every outfit.”
Again, women should focus on quality over quantity.
“Quality shoes will be pricier upfront, but they’ll last far longer than cheap pairs,” Ramhold said. “In addition, try to make sure you have a couple of good pairs of pumps in different heights, plus a pair of flats, and if you want, a pair of boots. Cover different situations, but with as few pairs as possible in neutral colors that will go with anything.”
“Men may carry a briefcase, but the odds are good that it’s pretty universal to whatever they’re wearing; they may have a casual satchel to carry as well when the occasion calls for it,” Ramhold said. “Women, however, have a variety of different handbags to fit with work, casual, and even festive occasions, so that they end up with a collection of totes, handbags, clutches and more just to have their needs covered at any given time.”
Women looking to save on costs and space should opt for a single solid tote, handbag and clutch in neutral colors with minimal decorations, Ramhold said.
“Somehow it is more acceptable for men to have gray hair than women, so many women spend countless hours and a small fortune every 6-8 weeks at the hair salon covering their grays,” said Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com. “I have gray hair myself, and while I know that it ages me a bit, I get a lot of satisfaction knowing how much time and money I’m saving.”
Recognizing that gray hair isn’t for everyone, Bodge recommends that women allow more time to pass between salon visits, and to use hair powder or mousse to cover their roots. The DIY method may also come in handy.
“There are lots of boxed hair coloring products that you can purchase at a fraction of the cost of a salon visit,” Bodge said. “There’s also Madison Reed, which is a customized at-home product. I haven’t tried it myself, but it’s more affordable than the salon and I assume that the personalization is less risky.”
In the U.K. alone, “Approximately 900,000 quit the workforce due to menopause according to a 2019 survey by BUPA,” said Dr Nina Wilson founder and CEO of One Woman Health, a clinic specializing in menopause and health for female executives. “Around 50% of [people] experiencing menopause are less likely to go for promotion.
“Women are being held back at the most productive and potentially economically successful time in their lives,” Stoke continued. “Think about the loss of salary and pension contributions this leads to. It’s no wonder the gender pay-gap is widest in older women. This is a major hidden cost of being a woman.”
Safety (Especially When Traveling)
“One of the biggest costs I have to budget for is safety,” said Kate Sortino, a finance writer and digital nomad. “Women have to pay a premium for safety domestically and abroad. We can’t just travel anywhere like our male counterparts, we have to constantly think about when we travel, where we travel, and how safe we will be there. The reality is, particularly for much of the world, the freedom to exist is just cheaper for men. Women are remarkably less safe and have to pay a ton to maintain a basic level of personal and bodily safety.”
Sortino pointed out that she’s not just referring to accessories like pepper spray, but more substantial things, like private housing and pricey transportation. “Unfortunately, these costs are unavoidable,” Sortino said. “Women will likely continue paying these premium rates to maintain safety while traveling for the foreseeable future.”
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