Today’s business world is saturated with powerful women growing their own businesses and excelling in prominent roles. Despite this progress, many women in business find themselves at a distinct disadvantage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2020, with women of color facing an even wider gap. While we have made some progress over the years, we have a long way to go before reaching true equality.

On top of the wage gap, “looking the part” of a businesswoman is more expensive than looking the part of a businessman, according to booksy. This can include spending money on hair and nail appointments, up-to-date outfits, makeup and other expensive cosmetics. As women age, many also allocate significant funds toward plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, with Botox costing $325 to $600 per treatment on average. These are expenses that few men feel they need to consider.

According to Cheapism, female products and services are often sold at much higher prices than male products, requiring women to pay more for haircuts, clothing, shampoo, deodorant and other personal care items. Commonly referred to as the “pink tax,” this gender-based pricing system is another major driver behind male and female wage disparities.

This begs the question: ladies, if you aren’t paid equally to a man, how can you possibly afford to keep up with all these extra expenses? While some of these products and services may feel superfluous, it’s important for women to feel confident in themselves and their appearance, as this confidence translates directly into business results. There are countless ways to invest in yourself, and many women accomplish this goal by keeping regular cosmetic appointments, purchasing new clothes and investing in products that make them feel good about how they look.

Understanding that gender-based pay discrepancies exist and that women often must account for considerable additional expenses, can women even afford to “look the part?” The answer is yes, but it requires proactive, realistic planning that prioritizes personal investment.

The first step is to establish a budget that allows you to invest in the products and services that enhance your confidence and meet your unique standards. We all know how expensive a trip to the salon can be, which is why it’s crucial to plan and budget accordingly.

As you work to create a budget to accommodate these expenses, remember to only hold yourself accountable to your personal standards of health, beauty, happiness and success. You should never feel pressured to spend money just to fit a particular mold. If you want to get your nails done and rock that new power suit in the office, great! If not, no one is forcing you.

It is critical for businesswomen to erase any guilt associated with spending money on grooming and realistically plan for what that spending may look like in the future. Confidence is a major driver of success, and it’s OK to acknowledge that investing in your external appearance is part of it. As we continue working to close the wage gap, remember to prioritize your needs and invest in things that advance your overall well-being. You deserve to be your happiest, healthiest and most confident self, and I promise you are worth the investment!

Teresa J.W. Bailey is a wealth strategist and director of development at Waddell & Associates (W&A), orchestrating the financial affairs of clients and building the W&A brand.

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