A new crop of businesswomen and lawmakers are trying to fight the “pink tax.”
Dry-cleaning really pisses PR-maven Reilly Starr off.
The nearly six-foot tall brunette has spent most of her adult life working in communications for financial and legal firms, where she wears a daily uniform of collared shirts, pencil skirts with blazers and pant suits. What’s not standard: How much she pays to dry-clean that collared shirt, compared to a nearly identical shirt for a man. “There’s a deep-rooted gender issue in the industry,” she says. “It’s antiquated.”
She’s right. Studies prove the average price to dry clean a men’s button down shirt is $2.06, compared to $3.95 for a similar woman’s shirt, according to the study published in the journal Gender Issues in 2011. “The observed pricing disparity is for identical shirts except that one is labeled a ‘men’s’ shirt while the other is a ‘women’s’ shirt,” the authors write. Do that math, and this pricing disparity might piss you off too. If a man and a woman each get one shirt dry-cleaned once a week for the next 10 years, it would cost the man $1,071, while it would cost the woman nearly double that ($2,054).
After 15 years of simply paying more for dry-cleaning, 36-year-old Starr took action, launching Dapper Dame Dry Cleaning this month. Her platform? Equal prices for equal items – men and women pay the same amount for the same items. It’s an on-demand service in Manhattan — you use an app to schedule pickup for your dry-cleaning — that charges $1.95 for standard button-down shirts no matter whether they are men’s or women’s. (You’ll still pay extra for a silk or embellished blouse because of the extra labor involved to get them clean.)
Starr is just one of a handful of entrepreneurs, politicians and others fighting the “pink tax,” in which women pay more for nearly identical products that men do, including personal care products like deodorant to haircuts and mortgages. A 2015 study of 800 nearly identical products with female and male versions found that women pay about 7% more for their versions than men do; another study found that the pink tax costs women about $1,350 extra per year.
Last month, two big fights over the pink tax were fought. A Montreal-based law firm filed a class action lawsuit against several large companies claiming that they routinely charged women more than men for similar products, the Montreal Gazette reports. “We’re talking about the exact same product, same ingredients, essentially for the same product on a per-gram basis,” one of the lawyers, Jamie Benizri, explains. He filed the lawsuit on behalf of a female client who, he says, “was paying on average 40% more over certain products.”
That same month, lawmakers introduced legislation in Nevada to eliminate the “pink tax” on personal care items in the state. Currently, under the law, menstrual products in that state are not considered a necessity, and thus are subject to an additional tax. “These products are not a choice, and they’re definitely not a luxury. They are a required part of being a woman,” says assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui. “The state should not tax us for being a woman.”
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