EquiHome: Sharing the Load and Sharing the Love
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EquiHome, the First Place winner of 2021’s Innovation in Action Showcase, was born out of the urgency to make real change. Currently, 2.25 million families are without childcare and women are three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for household needs. In the last year especially, many women have had to take on more responsibility for household needs – often without enough support.
Story by Malin Andersson and Taylor Schott
Deepti Pandey is a recent graduate of U-M’s School of Information and is the CEO and founding member of EquiHome. She came to Innovation in Action with the desire to equalize this burden that many women face. “Do you want to have kids?” is a commonly asked question of young women — Deepti recognizes the choice attached to that question and the gender inequality that it hides.
For Deepti and many other women, the desire to raise a family seems to be at odds with the desire to have a career or hold a position such as CEO. Deepti believes that “It’s not something anybody should have to think about. It’s not an either-or.” It was with this passion for women’s rights that Deepti created EquiHome with Mary Figueroa and Mintu Joy, eventually going on to win First Place at 2021’s Innovation in Action Final Showcase.
EquiHome’s two other team members are Mary Figueroa, a recent graduate from U-M’s School of Public Health, and Mintu Joy, a recent graduate student in the College of Engineering at U-M Dearborn. What initially began as a project dedicated to easing the transition of mothers back into the workforce became a project addressing the imbalance in household work and childcare and the responsibility that is often solely carried by women.
As a student and a mother of two, Mintu Joy understands the struggle of raising young children with additional responsibilities. Upon meeting Deepti and Mary through Innovation in Action, Mintu recognized Innovation in Action as a chance to empower other women and mothers. Drawing from her own experience, Mintu helped EquiHome aim their efforts on addressing the lack of partner support for household responsibility.
Bringing Equity into the Home
Their vision resulted in the design of a mobile app that tracks and organizes household chores and responsibilities. The EquiHome app employs an integrated calendar, note progress, voice assistant, and a task list for various chores. Tasks are divided up equally, and positive reinforcement is given to completed chores, tracking each family members’ progress. Not only can families benefit from the app, but roommates and partnerships can as well.
In addition to learning from Mintu’s own experience as a mother, wife, and student, EquiHome conducted 40+ interviews to understand how best to help. Social media posts became a great source of information because of their lack of filter.
The Equihome team had a particularly opportune interaction with a woman on Twitter regarding household work — Twitter user “Miss Potkin.” Miss Potkin went viral after tweeting an experiment where she stopped doing her families’ dishes, sparking a conversation about domestic responsibilities and women’s gender roles.
Deepti reached out to her about the Equihome project, noting that, “She must be like a celebrity, she’s not even going to respond.” To her surprise, Miss Potkin replied with enthusiasm, “When you build it, I will talk about it to all my followers free of cost, no money involved, just because I like it.” Deepti noted that from this interaction, it was exciting to see the real value in her project beyond IiA.
For a team that has never met in person, EquiHome is strong, balanced, and brimming with passion for their cause as well as for each other. With each member coming from a different background, they ultimately met their challenges by filling the gaps in the others’ experience to create a project that is well-informed, practical, and inspiring. They set goals early and upheld their own work, communicating every day – even past the showcase date.
With a smile on their faces, EquiHome talked of how they approached this project with an overarching goal: to win. When she met her teammates-to-be, Deepti told them that “if our goal is not to win, there is no way we are winning.” By setting goals early on and utilizing the IiA curriculum and resources, EquiHome was able to achieve this goal, winning $10,000 as a result of their dedication. This accomplished team decided early on in their process that “We are going to be winners. We’re going to look out for each other and for the cause.”
EquiHome will continue to empower other women through their app. Deepti Pandey articulated her team’s vision saying, “The UN speculates that it will take over 200 years to achieve actual gender equality – and that’s too long to wait.”