It was going to be a first in the history of NASA: an all-female spacewalk heading out from the International Space Station to install batteries on the 29th of March. However, the plans have had to be scrapped, since not enough spacesuits of the appropriate size are available.

If you’ve heard of the infamous “pink tax” at all, then the chances are you’re a woman who’s already fallen foul of it. It’s a deeply odd and incredibly frustrating fact of life and business for millions of UK women – but if it doesn’t directly hit you, you’ll probably never even notice it.

Despite the name, it isn’t really a tax at all. It simply refers to the strange fact that identical products tend to rocket up in cost when they’re marketed specifically toward women. The pink tax can strike virtually anywhere, from holiday essentials to safety gear.

It's not asking for the Moon on a stick

To be fair, the NASA story isn’t strictly a pink tax issue. In fact, spacesuits are unisex, and it just happens that both women scheduled for the spacewalk would have needed the same suit for the best fit - but having only one of a single size seems suprisingly lacking in forethought for all sorts of reasons. 

There’s still a point worth highlighting here, though. A lot of workers in the UK are stuck using inappropriate equipment, because the right gear is too expensive. Overwhelmingly, it’s women who are getting the short end of this stick.

According to a TUC survey, when it comes to Personal Protective Gear, 71% of women are using safety gear that isn’t built with them in mind. Those forced to use male gear are having a really tough time of it – and given that we could be talking about anything from protective boots to life-saving harnesses, it’s a pretty big problem for many. 1 in 10 employers aren’t replacing worn or broken PPE, only half even pay the cleaning costs and 15% aren’t providing women with the gear the law requires at all.

There are proposals on the way from the Liberal Democrats that would see the pink tax essentially scrapped. Until there are laws in place, though, it’s all about the economics. When safety equipment is designed, it’s done with the “average” user in mind. In a lot of industries using that equipment, the typical user is going to be a man. Since less women’s gear is going to be bought, “non-standard” sizes and designs go up in price to compensate. For some, that’s a regular annoyance. For others, it’s potentially an outright menace.

As always, the best defence against the unavoidable costs of your job is a properly made tax refund claim. Phone or email to find out why you’re always better off with RIFT.