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August 9 2017

Café Charges 18% Man Tax to Close the Gender Pay Gap

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

The Handsome Her Café serves their coffee with a side of discrimination apparently.

This Melbourne-based café, which claims to be 100 percent plant based and refuses to use disposable coffee cups, is making a statement about the pay gap and gender-based discrimination, by treating male customers worse than their female customers.

For one week each month, the café imposes a (voluntary) 18-percent man tax on all male customers. They explain it is to address the gender wage gap and start a conversation about pay differences between women and men. The revenue from tax collected is donated to a rotating list of women’s service providers.

The cafe also gives priority seating to women.

The owner of the café thinks it’s a winning idea according to the Daily Mail:

'We’re bringing it [the gender pay gap] to the forefront of people's minds. I like that it is making men stop and question their privilege a little bit,' she said.

'One of my friends who works for a not-for-profit women's service was talking about the pay gap and I thought it was a good idea, so we decided that one week every month we would charge men an 18 per cent premium, which we will donate.'

Not surprisingly, although the café has male customers, not one of them has yet to pay the 18-percent premium:

'If men don't want to pay it, we're not going to kick them out the door. It's just an opportunity to do some good,' says Ms O'Brien.

A few things come to mind.

First, if they have collected zero from the surtax, what “good” are they doing exactly? It sounds nice to claim they are donating the surcharge funds to women’s service providers, but how do they follow through on that promise if they don’t collect anything? Will this café pull out its own checkbook and still provide a donation – perhaps in the amount of the taxes that would have been collected?

Second, the premise of a gender wage gap in Australia may be just as faulty as the oft-cited pay gap referred to in the U.S. It’s derived from comparing average earnings for men and women, but when controlling for other important factors such as seniority, time out of the work, education, industry, and dangerousness of the job, any difference in pay shrinks to a few cents. In addition, there are industries where women earn more than men.

Finally, this sounds a lot like discrimination, which would be illegal in the US and certainly sounds illegal according to Australia’s Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 which prohibits discrimination against another person based on their sex in providing a goods or services or use of facilities.

Who would tolerate this idea if the roles were reversed and men were systematically charging women more for food and seating them at the worst tables? This move to reverse what they perceive as gender discrimination is within itself discrimination.

If they really believed in their tax idea, why not make it a permanent mandatory charge? Perhaps they fear that not only would they lose male customers, but their female patrons as well.

Wanting to boost the wages that women make is the right motivation, but this cafe is going about it in the wrong way. For example, if they want to raise wages for women, why not start with the salaries of their own workers?

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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