For one week each month, a cafe in Melbourne, Australia, charges its male customers 18% extra. The "gender surcharge" is their way of drawing attention to the pay-gap between men and women in Australia.

The cafe is called Handsome Her and as part of their "house rules" also offers priority seating for women. The cafe’s other house rules are listed on a chalkboard for customers to see.

“House Rules, Rule #1: Women have priority seating. Rule #2: men will be charged an 18% premium to reflect the gender pay gap (2016) which is donated to a women’s service. Rule #3: respect goes both ways.”

According to research conducted in 2016 by Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women in Australia who work full-time, experience a 17.7% pay discrepancy.

Cafe owner Alexandra O’Brian told Seven news that if customers are not comfortable paying the extra surcharge they won’t “kick them out the door,” it’s just their opportunity to do some good. Before being billed, men are asked if they would like to pay the voluntary surcharge.

“There’s been nothing but positivity from everyone, males and females,” she told Broadsheet Melbourne. Men have so far been happy to pay the extra charge with some even giving a further donation.

The idea came out of a discussion between the staff about ideas on how they could raise money for women’s charities.

The extra money the cafe raises through the surcharge will be donated to women’s support services and a range of charities. The first organisation to receive donations will be Victoria-based Elizabeth Morgan House, that supports Indigenous women and children who have experienced family violence.

This is not the first time this little vegan cafe in Brunswick has been in the news. They have also been saluted for fighting the war on waste by having an entire wall of "emergency" mugs for customers to borrow instead of using disposable take away coffee cups.

The idea to highlight the pay discrepancy caused a stir on social media, with some even claiming it’s discrimination.

But if it’s all in good fun, as the cafe owner says it is, and it’s just about sparking conversation about inequality the gender pay-gap, then what could be wrong with that?


Demand Equity

Australian Cafe Charges Men 18% Surcharge to Highlight Gender Pay Gap

By Marnie Cunningham