The High Cost of Being a Woman

The High Cost of Being a Woman

We pay more for the same products and services while making less money.


It turns out being a woman is an expensive undertaking. Despite laws on the books meant to prevent companies and firms from charging women more for the same products and services, we’re still shelling out more than men for a variety of things. And we do it on less pay.

A new report out this week from the National Women’s Law Center found that insurance companies have been charging women $1 billion more than men for the same coverage. In fact, in the states that haven’t banned the practice of jacking up prices for women – known as gender rating – women were charged more for 92 percent of the best-selling health plans. The difference can’t be explained by a higher cost of maternity care: even when that care is left out, almost a third of plans charged women at least 30 percent or more, and that care is usually not part of a standard benefits package. Why might insurers decide women are more expensive? Because they tend to use more services – like going to the doctor more often for regular check ups. Damn them being preventative.

Paying higher dollar amounts for similar care isn’t the only way health issues screw women. Nona Willis Aronowitz and Dylan C. Lathrop of GOOD added up the numbers on how much women spend on lady-specific care. The average woman will spend 30 years trying to prevent pregnancy, eventually having two children. With insurance, at the low end, their estimates show that she will end up spending $10,070 on her particular health needs. Those include costs for having a baby, such as gestational diabetes screening ($80), a lactation class ($80), and breast-feeding supplies ($670). It also includes preventative care, such as HPV tests every three years ($260), annual HIV counseling and screening ($1,500), annual pelvic exams ($2,080), and co-pays for hormonal birth control ($5,400).

But health care isn’t the only arena that gets women. As Jezebel reported yesterday, women also end up paying more just for everyday products and needs. Women pay more just to get their shirts dry cleaned (even though a “blouse” and a man’s dress shirt is basically the same thing) and haircuts (our hair’s made of the same stuff, right?). A study from the University of Central Florida found that women’s deodorant costs 30 cents more than men’s – and the only difference is scent. Bigger purchases also cost women more: on average women pay $200 more for a car than a man, and they were about 30 percent more likely to end up with subprime home loans before the crash.

All of this, of course, is paid for with lower income. The gender wage gap stood at 82 cents on the dollar for the same work men do. That gap ends up costing women $431,000 in pay over a 40-year career. In turn, they have a harder time building up assets and saving for retirement, even though they tend to live longer lives.

It seems being a man still gives you a big financial upper hand. With some people talking about women being the richer of the two sexes, we might want to stop and take a look at how much thinner our money has to spread.

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