You’re at the drugstore. You reach for your favorite deodorant and toss it into your shopping basket without thinking twice—but if you’re a woman, maybe you SHOULD stop and think about it for a minute. Because you may be paying more for that deodorant than a man buying a comparable product, simply because yours is formulated for women.
I didn’t know much about the so-called "Pink Tax"—the phenomena where products marketed to women are typically more expensive than those marketed to men—until recently. And it turns out that I’m not alone: According to research from Perksy, a DIY consumer feedback platform, 48 percent of millennial women have no idea that the Pink Tax even exists. Before you think to yourself, "eh, what’s a dollar or two here and there?" consider this: A 2015 New York City study said that women pay higher prices on 42 percent of products, and found that women’s products generally cost 7 percent more than men’s products. And women spend on average $1,351 per year more than men on products that are of similar quality. That’s a lot of deodorant.
What’s truly alarming to me is not just how unaware women are of the Pink Tax and its effect on their wallets, but how little brands seem to be doing about it. The disproportionate prices exist simply because brands have decided to put a premium on women’s products, which isn’t just unfair, it’s bad marketing. It extends beyond personal care and clothing, too: Even our feminine care products, until recently, have been subject to a luxury tax because they weren’t deemed "essential" items. To date, only 10 states have gotten rid of that tax.
Some brands have taken steps in the right direction, like European Wax Center’s #AxthePinkTax campaign this April, designed to educate consumers and empower women. Last year, Burger King launched its "Chick Fries" campaign—in which a version of its Chicken Fries served in a pink box was more expensive—to raise awareness The personal care startup Billie was created specifically to offer more affordable razors and shaving products to women. And online bulk-buying marketplace Boxed has slashed the price of tampons and other personal and encouraged other retailers to do the same, saving their customers more than $1 million to date because of it.
But is it enough? What else can brands do to level the shopping experience? Here are some ideas:
Adjust your prices. If your brand charges a higher price for products solely because they’re marketed to females, know that consumers are calling for more equality. In our recent Perksy study, 64% of female respondents cited price adjustments as the number one way companies could start getting rid of the Pink Tax—and their most popular course of action (38 percent) would be to stop buying from brands that charge one. So while it might seem obvious, price adjustments are a first step to equality.
Work with legislators. Partner with government officials, such as California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who launched the Pink Tax Repeal Act on Equal Pay Day in 2018, to make change. Grace Louis, the Assistant Director of Asset Building Programs for the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, spoke on a panel hosted by Ellevate this April about the steps the city is taking to move in the right direction. Seek out other advocates in your state or city and work with them to introduce legislation and make change.
Educate consumers. Take a page from European Wax Center and Burger King and build awareness around the issue. The more consumers are educated about the Pink Tax, the less likely they are to buy unfairly priced goods—and more likely we are to see change. European Wax Center even launched an online calculator to show how much the Pink Tax has cost you over your lifetime—imagine how shocked I was that mine was more than $55,000! More tools like this would be useful in making the effects of the Pink Tax more urgent.
Embrace gender neutrality. Today more than ever and especially among younger consumers, gender is fluid, so why not market that way? Brands like CoverGirl (by naming its first male supermodel) and Zara (by launching a genderless clothing line) have taken steps in this direction, and new unisex personal care options from companies like Brandless, Panacea and Non Gender Specific are being introduced all the time. Create something that would appeal to everyone instead of an outdated pink and blue version.
Innovate around the consumer. A company like Billie is a great example of a brand that fills a need AND axes the Pink Tax: Women have wanted more affordable, more effective razors and more natural shaving products, so Billie puts the consumer first while also tackling the issue.
As with anything, inaction is an action in and of itself. Brands that aren’t actively standing up to the Pink Tax are enabling it, so it’s time for marketers to step up and make a change however we can.
Jennifer DaSilva is the president of Berlin Cameron.