Member preview

The Costs of Womanhood

There is no such thing as equality of the sexes when it comes to how much it costs to simply exist.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

When I was watching my wife paint the finger and toenails of my 3 girls this past Sunday (60 nails in all), I found myself thinking about just how much women must need to “invest” in simply doing all of the stuff that comes along with being a woman. Sure, any woman can choose not to do some of that stuff, like those nails, and many do, but most do not. Most women in the world, from their first steps, are faced with a massive list of things that they “need” and “need to do” for most of the rest of their lives that the majority of men don’t have to worry about.

Take those nails, for instance. A tiny bottle of nail polish runs, say, $8, and can let a women do her nails maybe 20 or 30 times. But you need a dozen colors of polish, and some get misplaced or given to friends to borrow, or your kids dump them out on the carpet or use them to paint a school project. So call that $100/year on polish at home. And you need all of the other accoutrements for doing at-home nails, like nail polish remover and Q-tips. And those foam toe-separator things. But most women probably also get professional manicures and pedicures done, at least once a season, which is easily another $100 a year. $200/year for, what, 60 years?

$12,000 in a lifetime for nails, and that’s on the low end.

This article in People concludes that women spend about $15,000 on makeup over the course of their lives.

I was also a little shocked when I saw that a study conducted by Groupon found that women and up spending roughly $225,000 over a lifetime on their appearance, versus men’s $175,000:

I discovered a term in my research that I think I heard before, but forgot about. It’s the “pink tax”: Extra money companies charge women for items that both men and women use in some form or another.

MarketWatch calculated that if a woman gets one shirt dry cleaned once per month, for example, she would pay $681 more than a man doing the same over the course of 30 years. — Elizabeth Plank

In that same article, the author adjusts this lifetime cost up for inflation (to 2015 dollars) and comes to $100,000.

That’s $100,000 extra that women pay for things like shaving creams, razors, and even clothing and shoes.

Companies also charge more because they know that female consumers will buy these products, due in no small part to savvy marketing teaching consumers that certain products are just for women or men, but not both. — Elizabeth Plank

Ms. Plank suggests boycotting products that use “gendered pricing”, and also calling them out on social media with proof using images and the #pinktax hashtag.

Despite the knowledge of #pinktax being out in the open for years, it’s still happening. According to this USA Today article from 2017:

Girls’ clothing cost 4% more than boys, and women’s clothing cost 8% more than men’s.
Girls’ toys and accessories cost an average of 7% more than boys’ toys. Separately, a side-by-side comparison of two Radio Flyer My 1st Scooters showed this: A red scooter cost $24.99 and a pink scooter cost $49, despite them being identical in all other ways.
Women’s personal care products also cost 13% more than men’s, according to the department’s study. — Anne-Marcelle Ngabirano

I can attest to that. As a father and husband, I’ve bought literally everything, across the board, for my wife and children. Everything seems to cost just a little more than what it’s worth from my perspective. Toys aimed at girls, especially, seem ridiculous. Toy costs for ALL children have risen dramatically in the past 20 years, but nearly everything positioned squarely for the little girl demographic appears to run a minimum of 20+% higher than a comparable item for boys, from LEGOs to bicycles to playsets.

And then there are the expenses that most women MUST take on. Clothes and shoes and toys can be bought on sale or secondhand if needed, but feminine hygiene products…not so much.

This great (or not-so-great) article at Huffpost lays out the cost of a woman’s period over her lifetime. The amount they arrive at seems a bit low to me. The cost of tampons comes in at just under $2,000 and medical costs, including birth control, at around $12,000.

And then there is another, more worrying, fact, found in a study called The Lifetime Distribution of Healthcare Costs:

Per capita lifetime expenditure is $316,600, a third higher for females ($361,200) than males ($268,700). Two-fifths of this difference owes to women’s longer life expectancy.

And these are all the added costs, in direct monetary expenditure, that women end up with. When taken together, we’re looking at a minimum of several hundred thousand dollars an average woman in the U.S. shells out over a lifetime.

It gets worse when you see that women still earn considerably less for doing the same jobs as men:

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

This pay gap changes with age, as well. According to this in-depth analysis by the American Association of University Women:

In 2016 women ages 20–24 were paid 96 percent of what men were paid, decreasing to 78–89 percent from age 25 to age 54. By the time workers reach 55–64 years old, women are paid only 74 percent of what men are paid.

Even though people and organizations (like the AAUW) have been actively fighting wage disparity for decades, progress is actually slowing in recent years. Women are making inroads in higher-earning areas like the tech sector, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

The reasons behind this disparity are multiple: It’s true that there are some male-dominated professions where women are less welcomed by many of their male peers, and male bosses might actually be paying female workers less as a form of gender bias. Women are also suffering career-wise due to their gender roles in society: As mothers, a lot of time is lost to maternity leave and medical time off, and as significant others, women tend to be the ones who sacrifice their jobs when husbands or boyfriends move for new opportunities.

When the gender wage gap is considered, an average woman in the U.S. might easily earn $650,000 less in a lifetime than a male counterpart.

Between the wage gap, the pink tax and the inherent costs of femininity, we’re now talking about a number approaching $1 million.

So what do we do aside from continuing to “fight the power”?

I, for one, think that all women should receive a tax-free gift from the government of $500,000 upon reaching the age of 18. Here you go, a little something to help offset the B.S. that comes with being born a girl.

And even that could never be enough. On top of the medical issues that arrive with being a woman and a mother, women also have to deal with all of the crap that men cause simply by being men.

So, to my wife, my daughters, my mother and grandmothers, my aunts, my female cousins and friends, I would like to say that I am sorry, that I understand (at least to some degree) that this world is not the kindest place for the “fairer sex”, and that I will proceed through life knowing this and doing my best to make things better for you.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +386,297 people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.