Why you should care
Because it costs more to be a woman.
For decades there have been outcries about the gender pay gap. Despite the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963, according to Jessica Milli, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the latest statistics show that women earn 80.5 cents to every dollar men earn for full-time, year-round work. But the thing that makes this discrepancy truly egregious? It also costs more to be a woman.
That’s right. If you add up the costs for what it takes to be professionally presentable in most competitive work environments, that dollar number is much higher for women. As most women know all too well, in the business world women are expected to look better than men, from the tops of their perfectly coiffed heads to the soles of their pristine pumps. The wearing of skirts and dresses is encouraged in many fields, and you know what that means: pantyhose at about $7 a pop. And that’s just the beginning. Considering the combined price of women’s clothing, haircuts, beauty products, manicures, hygiene items, handbags, jewelry and — OK, let’s face it — SHOES, women have to spend way more.
So I say forget equal pay for women — women obviously need higher salaries than men. But since it has proved difficult to get employer compliance to the EPA, and since women actually require more money than men, we need to find a solution for this other than a salary one. I propose instituting a 25 percent female tax credit for all working women. This would even up the nearly 20 percent pay gap and add a little more to cover pantyhose, perfume and purses.
We need to institute a tax reduction for women …
While the Huffington Post has calculated that the average woman spends more than $18,000 on her periods throughout her lifetime, it’s not just that women need extra, female-specific things (like bras, lipstick and tampons), or that women’s products sometimes cost more for companies to manufacture. When men and women buy the exact same items, women still pay more. A study of 800 nearly identical products that have male and female versions released in December 2015 by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that the women’s products, on average, cost 7 percent more than the men’s products. And that personal care products cost women 13 percent more than men. (Women pay a whopping 48 percent more than men for shampoo and conditioner.) If you take a man’s and a woman’s oxford shirt to the cleaner’s — the same fabric, the same cut — the woman’s shirt will cost more to dry-clean. Women also spend about twice as much at the hair salon, according to most studies. This male-female product differential is known as the “pink tax.”
There are also less obvious gender spending disparities. For example, according to a research report from the Urban Institute, a D.C.-based think tank, women often pay higher interest rates for mortgages — even though women repay their mortgages more reliably than men do.
Which is why we need to institute a tax reduction for women, to be called the “pink tax credit.” Similar compensatory remedies are pursued on a much smaller scale all the time, says Milli, including by individual businesses — like bars that have “wage gap days” where women pay a smaller amount on their tabs. “It’s definitely a fun idea,” she says, “and a novel way to help raise awareness for the gender pay gap issue.”
Of course, the problem with a pink tax credit is that it would take a lot of much-needed dollars away from the tax pool. It also might not get the money to the right sector of women. “With tax credits in general, the idea is nice, but they tend to be more beneficial to higher-income taxpayers,” says Milli. It also fails to address the complex causes of why the gender pay gap exists, and how to keep people from participating in the pink-tax retail market. Rather than accept that we live in a world geared toward paying women less and making them spend more, we need to demand fair treatment from our bosses — as well as from our dry-cleaners. And women should buy men’s razors until the pink ones stop costing more.
On the other hand, a pink tax credit might be a way to get things moving in the right direction, EPA-wise. April 15 would instantly become National Women’s Day.