4. Is it more expensive to be a woman?

It sure seems like it.

Whenever I go to the supermarket I’ve seen strange differences in pricing. The woman’s body wash is in a nice pink bottle with flowers on it while the men’s body wash is in a dark blue bottle. The women’s body wash also has less product in it, yet it is 2 dollars more. This has always confused me and is the subject of a great debate over what people call the “pink tax”.

Many news sources including the New York Times and Washington Post discuss the pink tax, claiming that women spend on average $1,351 more a year than men do on clothing, personal care products, and toys. In fact, studies show that many women’s products come in smaller packages and are pink, what some call “pink it and shrink it”.

Here’s some examples of these pricing differences:

With the same active ingredients why is the women’s stool softener more expensive than the men’s stool softener?
At a Toys R Us in France, the girl’s toy costs significantly more than the boy’s toy.
Why does a back brace for women cost 17% more than the equivalent men’s version?

Why does this pricing difference exist?

There are two different camps in this pink tax debate. One side believes that women’s products are sold higher as a marketing gimmick by brands since they know that women prefer the pink packages so they mark up the prices, which is unethical. The other side believes that there might be real pricing differences based on the quality of the product and the materials/ingredients in female products may cost more to make.

However, there are some products that are obviously the same for males and females such as the toy above, but only differ in color. How do we justify that?

At the end of the day, I don’t know for sure the specific reasoning behind the pink tax. Some believe it is a myth, however, I certainly believe there’s more at play than what meets the eye.

But let’s set aside the reasons and the whys. Let’s think of how we, as women, can make sure we’re getting a fair deal and calling people out when we’re not.

So for this week, I’m designing an application that shows you the differences between the men’s and women’s products to make the best purchasing decision and let people know when something looks unfair.

How can we fight this?

My application, predictably named Pink Tax, helps you find the best deal for what you’re looking for.

Imagine that you are shopping at Target. With Pink Tax, when you see a branded female item you can either scan the barcode or search the name and see similar male/unisex products and compare prices and quality.

Here are the principles driving this week’s design:

Help women understand the difference between branded women’s and men’s products

Help women make more informed purchasing decisions

Raise awareness of the community to discrepancies and unfair pricing

Help women understand the difference between branded women’s and men’s products

When you first open the app you get a list of product categories. These are pulled from the product catalog of whatever store you are in (in this case Target). The app knows which store you are in from your location. So if you don’t know what you are searching for yet and want to poke around, the home screen is a great place to start to see the best deals on the popular products in store (toys, clothes, personal care etc).

Home screen of the Pink Tax app: you can see the various categories and the products in store/special deals.

If you already know what you’re looking for, you can either search the item or scan the barcode. For this example, let’s say we searched for a Miss Bic Lighter (yes, sadly there is such a thing).

Compare Miss Bic Lighter to equivalent male/unisex version. You also see a recommendation of which product to buy below along with the reasons why.

On the left you see the female branded product. On the right you see male branded products. You can see the price and the differences. Finally, you can see which product you should purchase based on multiple factors. The male branded products on the right are swipeable, so swiping on the cards on the right show you a different, but comparable product.

Swiping the cards on the right shows another equivalent product with a recommendation.

Help women make more informed purchasing decisions

A large part of the Pink Tax app is to show the differences in the female vs. male branded products. Does the pink body wash have less in it and have the same main ingredients, yet cost more? Does the male shaver actually last longer and cost less? By providing a recommendation and the reasons for the recommendation, women can make an informed purchase about which product to buy.

An overview of what types of products cost more for women and girls.

Raise awareness of the community to discrepancies and unfair pricing

When I see differences in pricing, like the Miss Bic Lighter example, that are so outrageously gender specific it makes me furious. I want to call attention to it and I want people to know that this is not okay. And a big part of making sure retailers don’t take advantage of us to make sure our voices are heard. We should be angry, and tell people that this is wrong.

That’s why the Pink Tax app has the ability to tweet from the app about the gender-specific pricing you see in store with the hashtags #pinktax and #genderpricing. This is to raise community awareness of the unfair pricing.

Tweet with the hashtags #pinktax and #genderpricing to raise awareness.

The right to be informed

Maybe there are some female products that cost more to make than the male products, so they cost more. But not all price differences can be explained away like this. And regardless of the reasons why things are the way they are, women have to right to know what they are buying and talk about it if they think the price differences are unfair. The Pink Tax app is one step in this direction. There are also blogs such as this one that are working to close this gap.

I’d love to hear your #pinktax stories and opinions on the issue. Opening up the discussion is an important step in getting to the bottom of gender based pricing.

This is part 5 of a year long series on design that hopes to improve the lives of women. Follow 52 Weeks of Design for Women to stay updated.