Building upon situational strength and biosocial constructionist theories, we test the indirect effect of gender on pay via self-enhancement values (e.g. power and achievement) and working hours. We also examine the moderating role of country-level inequality on that mediated link. The results of multilevel regressions with 16,352 respondents nested in 28 European countries support the hypotheses that men are more likely to prioritise self-enhancement values, to work more hours than women and consequently receive higher earnings. The indirect effect of gender on pay via self-enhancement values and working hours was stronger for gender-equal countries. The link between gender and working hours was moderated by country-level inequality. In gender-equal countries, the differences in working hours for men and women were larger than in gender-unequal countries. We discuss the implications of our findings for creating policies that promote gender equality in salary.