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A cafe in Australia is charging an 18% 'man tax'— here's what that would look like in the US

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Inti St Clair | Getty Images

The Handsome Her cafe in Melbourne, Australia, turned heads last week when it announced its plan to charge customers an 18 percent "man tax" and offer priority seating for women.

Cafe owner Alex O'Brien is hoping to highlight the gender pay gap, she tells Broadsheet: "I do want people to think about it, because we've had this (pay discrepancy) for decades and decades and we're bringing it to the forefront of people's minds. I like that it is making men stop and question their privilege a little bit."

Since, on average, men earn 17.7 percent more than women in Australia, O'Brien has instituted the 18 percent tax.

The surcharge at the Handsome Her will occur one week per month and the extra money will be donated to female-focused charities. It's also voluntary, O'Brien tells 7NEWS: "If people aren't comfortable paying it — if men aren't going to pay it — we're not going to kick them out the door. It's just a good opportunity to do some good."

If a cafe in the U.S. were to replicate the "man tax," it would have to use a different number: 20 percent, which is the pay gap for full-time, year-round workers in the States.

That being said, new research shows that millennial women are closing in on men and some experts predict women's pay could, on average, even surpass men's in the next few years.

"Millennial women are so outpacing men in higher education that it's inevitable they will become their generation's top earners," reports Fast Company, using data from a Pew Research study. "With greater education comes greater wealth. At this rate, young women's wages will overtake men's by 2020."

Other experts are more pessimistic: They argue that women won't even reach pay equity with men until 2152.

Regardless, the "man tax" at the Handsome Her has caused a storm on social media. Some are supportive of the concept:

Others are less enthused and argue it will only widen the gender gap:

Everyone, however, can agree that O'Brien has successfully started a conversation. And her cafe is reaping the benefits. "Yesterday and today we were jam-packed with customers showing their support," the Handsome Her posted on its Facebook page. "We've had men travel across town to visit us and pay 'the man tax' and throw some extra in the donation jar."

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