The cost of being a woman

5 min read

The cost of being a woman

You don’t have to be a damsel in distress in the pages of a Jane Austen novel to understand that society doesn’t exactly cater for gender parity. We are, however, getting closer to closing the equality gap between men and women in most areas, and by close we mean the distance between earth and the moon. They can see each other, but they are still miles away.

To join the conversation and help raise awareness on International Women's Day - we're embracing equity by exploring the cost of being a woman because equitable access to money should be available to everyone, everywhere. Being a woman in 2023 is complicated, and there is certainly more space for women in today’s society. 

But, at what cost? 

As we still strive for equality in most areas, we can’t ignore the significant financial inequalities between men and women. We asked women around our business to gather their two cents on the cost of being a woman in 2023. While the following points are written in relation to women and their finances, they will also be relevant to other marginalized groups.  

Cost of beauty 

My big bug bear is the beauty tax. Products/services advertized to men cost so much less than those advertized to women” – Rhiannon McGregor, Content Delivery Manager, nudge 

The gender inequality gap of beauty products is an undeniable contributor to the gender wealth gap. The expectation for the ideal woman to look young, be small, and be beautiful is remarkably supported by beauty marketers. The pressure for women to spend time and money on their looks is a product of sexism and stalls women’s progress in becoming financially equal to men.  

Have you ever fallen for the trap of a marketed product that convinces you need to change something you didn’t even know you needed to change?  

They’ve got our - well, women’s insecurities in a choke hold. 

For these reasons, businesses can mark up their prices for beauty products targeted to women and tell them to be smooth, wrinkle free, fat free, and hair free.  

Your health is your wealth 

There is increasing awareness that women’s bodies react differently to some medicines and most clinical studies have been made using men and assumptions about the male body” – Susan Levermann, Personal Finance writer, nudge. 

From being less likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to ill-fitting personal protective wear for female healthcare workers designed for men, the health sector has a long way to go.  

There are differences in healthcare between genders, and in particular women in different socioeconomic groups. There’s a clear need for better consideration of women’s bodies to close this health gap.  

Gender bias in healthcare settings can include disbelief in symptoms which manifests in women seeming “hysterical” (the word ‘hysterical’ comes from the Greek word hystéra, meaning “womb”) and gaps in medical research where studies were focused on the male body because they couldn’t become pregnant.  

Women’s basic needs require them to spend more money. It's becoming less frequent, but the prices of hygiene products are too often hiked up by tax for luxury items. Luxury tax is an additional tax added to products that are deemed non-essential. In short, the pink tax on a box of tampons would make them as much of a luxury as the pot of duck egg blue paint you use to decorate your kitchen. 

Work and salaries 

The gender divide when it comes to mental load is always an interesting one for me. And this is not just an imbalance at home but also at work where women are more often than men given non-work-related tasks.” – Marliane Owen, Behavioral Psychology Consultant, nudge 

There is an expectation on women to assume care-giving roles from an early age. For example, during the pandemic, schools were shut so women were much more likely to look after dependents at home which meant that many didn’t have the luxury to work full-time from home.  

This has further affected the gender pay gap, and notably the progression gap where men get ahead faster.  

According to Oxfam, women earn women earn 24% less than men globally and at the current rate, it will take up to 170 years to close this gap. Women in developing regions are less likely to have employment contracts or social protection. It is mostly women in these regions who are less likely to earn enough to escape poverty. Globally, women have higher rates of poverty in old age with single retired women having more of a chance of poverty than those who are married.  

Aviva reported that 40% of women, compared to 28% of men, were more likely to say that their workplace pension will not provide enough for them to have a comfortable retirement. Increasing your pension contribution might not be possible when balancing disposable income, or factoring in a possibility of having to work part-time when considering family planning or child care decisions. 

Due to lower pay and lower pension contributions, women are more likely to work part-time after retirement age.  

Family and emotional cost 

If you want to conceive naturally, then you can’t wait forever, but then there will probably be worries about affordability as childcare is so expensive.” – Laura Heffernan, Senior Writer, nudge 

The cost of housing is so expensive, that if a woman were to start a family, to get the space they need they’ll most likely need to move away from work, family and friends. What’s more, starting a family will change a woman's career and salary progression, and there isn’t enough support for women to bridge this gap. 

The word ‘cost’, if googled, is defined as ‘an amount that has to be paid or spent to buy or obtain something’. In the context of this article, the word ‘cost’ holds a more significant gravitas, one which is an amount to pay and spend but goes beyond the financial meaning. The key ingredients for womanhood, it seems, consist of societal pressure to look a certain way, to earn less but somehow spend more on high-taxed necessities deemed ‘luxuries’, and to have health symptoms be the brunt of lack of research while also being expected to be the caregivers of society. 

If earth moved closer to the moon, the entire pace of the earth would shift, causing a huge change in the tides. But we shouldn’t have to move the earth to see the change that would come from financial equality. 

Together, we can make a change and help more women to become financially resilient.

Want more International Women's Day content? Here's Grace Massey, nudge's Marketing Director discussing Women and Investing.

Interested in learning about how nudge can help? Get in touch!