Why It Costs More to Be a Woman

CTV's Lynda Steele explains why women pay more

CTV’s Lynda Steele compares the costs of living between genders

From dry cleaning to haircuts to everyday products like shaving and face creams, women often pay more due to a frustrating yet completely legal concept: gender pricing

In Canada there are laws preventing gender discrimination for things like jobs or housing, yet the same rules don’t apply when women pay a premium for popular products.

It’s estimated that Canadian women pay 30 to 50 per cent more for many goods and services, even new car purchases. Here’s a look at some of the places where women are getting gouged:

The Dry Cleaners

Women pay up to three-and-a-half times more to have their shirts laundered than men. We recently tested this by taking two virtually identical white shirts into downtown Vancouver dry cleaners to see if they charge different prices based on whether it’s a men’s or women’s shirt. The results were staggering: at one shop the price quoted for the men’s shirt was $2.35 and the women’s was $8.49! Another shop wanted to charge 25 per cent more.

So why the big difference? The head of the BC Fabricare Association of Professional Cleaners told us the pressing machines are designed to handle a men’s shirt – and a woman’s must be pressed by hand – a process that can take five times as long.

The Drug Store

On a shopping trip to London Drugs, we found an 11-ounce can of men’s shaving gel sells for $1.99, while a seven-ounce can for women costs $2.49. That’s a 20 per cent difference, and the product comes from the same manufacturer! And the price differences become more pronounced when it comes to beauty products and anti-aging treatments. The L’Oréal Hydra Energetic Ice Cold Eye Roller for men sells for $15.99, while the women’s Olay Regenerist eye roller retails for $29.99 – almost double the price.

The Hairdresser

New research from a Toronto firm that specializes in research on female consumers suggests that women pay up to 50 per cent more for haircuts.

A prominent Vancouver stylist I spoke to admitted that there is often a big price discrepancy for men and women when it comes to haircuts and that, in his opinion, it’s not always justified. He believes that one day there could be gender equity in his industry, but it would likely come from the cost of men’s cuts going up – not female cuts getting cheaper.

It’s not clear how much money gender discrimination costs the average shopper. One California study in the 1990s pegged the amount at $1,300 annually for each woman living in the state.

It’s also not clear how the problem can be stopped. The European Union and several U.S. states prohibit gender-based pricing but there hasn’t been much movement on the issue here in Canada.

On this week’s episode of Steele on Your Side, I sit down with Katie Reiach of the Smart Cookies to discuss simple solutions to overcoming the gender gap when it comes to purchases and services. We also have an exclusive poll from Insights West about how Canadians feel about the price differences.

What do you think of gender pricing?

CTV Lynda Steele "Steele On Your Side"Lynda Steele’s ‘Steele on Your Side’ half-hour consumer series airs Sunday afternoons at 3:30 p.m. on CTV B.C. Check your local listings or the CTV website for more information.