This sign lays out of the policy at Handsome Her, a Melbourne, Australia café where men are invited to pay 18% more to reflect the gender pay gap.

Story highlights

Men can pay 18% more in a nod to the wage disparity between women and men

Their donations support women's charities -- but some are slamming the whole idea

CNN  — 

A café in Melbourne, Australia, is giving its male customers a side of gender equity with their lattes.

At Handsome Her, men are asked to pay an 18% premium to “reflect the gender pay gap.” Men earn an average 17.7% more than women for full-time work in Australia, a government report found. The difference is roughly the same in the United States.

The first recipient charity is Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women's Service.

The café, which opened its doors for the first time Thursday, is hoping to shine a spotlight on the issue.

“All we really wanted was to raise awareness and start conversations about the gender gap,” Belle Ngien, the café’s manager, told CNN. The voluntary donations are collected during one week every month and given to women’s charities, Ngien said.

But it didn’t take long for the Internet to go crazy over the scheme, with some calling Handsome Her’s “gender tax” discriminatory.

Others implied the café would run out of money because it wouldn’t attract a wealthy clientele.

Some had constructive criticism, calling the idea divisive despite its good intentions.

But Ngien is unfazed: “Men have their own spaces that we’re not allowed in to, so why not have that space for women?”

No one has declined paying the extra 18%, she said. In fact, a few customers – men and women – have donated more. “Eighteen percent is actually not a lot. Our coffee is $4, and 18% of that is 72 cents,” Ngien said.

Indeed, men have come from across town to support the cause, owner Alex O’Brien said in a Facebook post.

“We’ve had men travel across town to visit us and pay ‘the man tax’ and throw some extra in the donation jar,” O’Brien wrote, adding, “Guys, you’re pretty neat.”

In the end, Ngien said, no one is turned away based on whether they pay extra.

“Sometimes it’s hard for people to change their minds,” she said. “We’re not in the business of changing people’s minds. They are welcome to go elsewhere if they don’t want to pay a voluntary donation.”

So far, Handsome Her has collected a couple hundred dollars for Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service. And it’s definitely fueled a conversation.

CNN’s Amanda Jackson contributed to this report.