New App Aims to Level the Gender Wage Gap One Meal at a Time

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EquiTable allows diners to pay their share of the bill based on gender and race.

Dozens of smartphone apps help mathematically challenged diners divvy up the bill however many ways. But a new app aims to split the check based on a person’s identity rather than what he or she had for lunch that day.

EquiTable uses figures about pay disparity from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate what you owe for a meal based on your race and gender.

“EquiTable helps you avoid the entrenched discrimination that exists in our society,” the website explains. “You pay what you should to balance out the wage gap.” 

“[The app] is meant to make you laugh and think about ways that we can overcome the wage gap,” Luna Malbroux, a comedian who came up with the idea, told TakePart. Malbroux worked with a team of fellow comedians and developers to create EquiTable (previously called Equipay) for Cultivated Wit’s Comedy Hack Day in San Francisco in January, earning them top honors and bragging rights. 

The app is set to launch on iOS sometime this month, and Malbroux hopes it will take conversations about the wage gap a step further than the best-known statistic: Women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes.

“[Many people] are unaware that that number is definitely different for women of color and even men of color,” said Malbroux, who is African American. Black women and men make about 64 percent and 75 percent, respectively, of what a white man earns. Latina women earn just 54 percent of what white men earn, while Latino men make about 67 percent of their white male peers’ salaries.

(Photo: YouTube)

The folks at EquiTable aren’t the first to attempt to even out the pay gap by forcing men to fork over more cash. Pop-up shop Less Than 100 traveled across the country last year offering women a range of discounts based on the gender wage gap in each state. Last July, New York City bar The Way Station offered its female patrons a 23 percent discount for one night in recognition of the pay gap.

Of course, paying a smaller share of the bill might be a welcome change for a night out, it’s unlikely to significantly narrow the income gap between men and women. But Malbroux thinks gimmicky campaigns help bring the issue of privilege and inequality to the forefront.

“Bias is real,” she said, noting that her decade working as a social worker proved that to her time and again. “There are still some people that don’t really believe that one’s identity can privilege them.” The EquiTable team has received hate mail and critiques of its product, along with claims that the pay gap is a myth or a way for women and people of color to act like victims.

The app itself is prepared to answer some of these rebuttals. When a person with a high privilege level wants to challenge the amount of the bill EquiTable says they owe, they’re offered a variety of excuses, such as “I acknowledge my privilege” or “This isn’t an issue anymore.” Selecting the latter triggers a bevy of facts about pay gaps by race, discrimination in employment, and the lack of female representation in the tech industry before the app demands those with privileged identities pay up.

Malbroux is quick to point out that while the app brings to light serious issues, it is first and foremost comedic. The app even ranks friend groups into diversity categories, with an all-white crowd dubbed “Oscar-level” diverse and a friend group with a mix of genders and ethnicities labeled “college-brochure-level” diverse.

“It’s a comedic calculator based on real numbers,” Malbroux said, “We hope that [people] do use it, but that they laugh while doing so.”

This article was originally published on TakePart.


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