Food by VICE

This App Splits Your Dinner Bill According to Your Race and Gender

Equipay utilizes actual US Department of Labor data to assign individual dinner costs based on the typical wages earned for different ethnic groups and genders.

by Munchies Staff
Feb 23 2016, 10:00pm

Foto von olaiskjaervoy via Flickr

We all know that moment of dread. You're out with eight friends for a relatively nice dinner. Your vegan roommate has been sulking over a side salad the whole time, while the good-time Charlie of the group is on her fourth glass of wine. Then there are the people who order $24 worth of appetizers and try to make their escape after "throwing a 20 on it," without even an iota of consideration for the concepts of taxes and tipping. This is hell.

Splitting evenly would totally fuck over the self-sustained picky eaters, but itemizing would take forever and likely result in enough bad math to make finalizing the total a nightmare. Plus, everyone has that one baller friend who blithely throws down their titanium Black Card, while the lesser-employed members of the group grimace and count their singles.

So what's a group of diners to do, in the spirit of fairness?

That's where Equipay comes into play.

Developed by San Francisco comedian Luna Malbroux, Equipay is an app that takes the guesswork out of bill-splitting by factoring in the invisible: the pay inequalities experienced by women and people of color. After all, if a black woman only makes 64 cents for the dollar made by a white man for the same work, isn't there something just a little problematic about them both forking over the same $34 for this Mexican food?

For this year's Comedy Hack Day in San Francisco, Malbroux conceived of an app that would not only benefit tech-savvy brunchers but also address the issue of unequal pay for equal work. Does the topic push some buttons? Sure. So why not add some real buttons—the touchscreen kind—and address the issue via smartphone? CHD brings together comedians with developers and designers to produce real, usable products that are as funny—if not in a tongue-in-cheek sense—as they are useful.

READ MORE: Sometimes Feminist Social Theory Is Best Explained Through Pizza

Equipay, which was awarded the grand prize in the competition, utilizes actual US Department of Labor data to assign individual dinner costs based on the typical wages earned for different ethnic groups and genders. "Affirmative fractions" are implemented to achieve this particular interpretation of fairness.

As an example, Malbroux described a $350 dinner bill between six friends in San Francisco. If a white man was joined by a black woman and an Asian man, the white man would pay $75, but his Asian friend would pay $89, since Asian men who work in the tech industry statistically make 22 percent more than their white male counterparts. Their black female friend, on the other hand, owes only $51, since her demographic is so ruefully underpaid on a systematic level. Thanks, Equipay!

Malbroux is a stand-up comedian and diversity educator whose other projects include Live Sex SF, an interactive comedy talk show touching upon (pun intended) issues of sexuality. The objective of Comedy Hack Day, according to Cultivated Wit, the organization that created it, is to prove that "humor combined with slick design and a creative use of technology can make complicated ideas more understandable and products more fun."

Malbroux tells Care2 that although the app was created to add humor to a sometimes sensitive topic, it's also functional and practical as a social justice tool, and will hopefully encourage discussion about these issues and how tech can interplay with them. The team hopes to offer it to the public within the next couple of months.

"We had not only different ethnicities in the group, but different skill sets. So I think that's what made it so great and so funny, is because we had so many different and diverse people working on it, and I think that's a prime example of why we need more diversity in tech," Malbroux told Care2.

"It's reparations—one meal at a time."