Part of a series of articles on female founders, Ziana Kotadia (MBA ’22) asks Rachel Drapper (MBA ’22) and Asena Uyguner (MBA ’22) about their startup Fairshare, which is helping make couples happier and more equitable at home.
Tell us more about your startup, Fairshare?
Drapper: Fairshare is a solution to help couples live happier and more equitable lives at home. It’s an app which aims to help couples make goals on housework, measure progress, and hold themselves accountable. We are still iterating the solution, but we have realized from testing our first prototype that the product needs to be more than just a measurement device if we are going to effectively help solve the problem of suboptimal sharing.
What inspired you to start Fairshare?
Drapper: I was initially inspired to help advance gender equity. Globally, women do three times as much unpaid labor as men. The extent of the disparity varies across countries, for instance Indian women do ten times as much unpaid labor as men, nevertheless it exists in every country. Even in the UK, women still do 64% of unpaid labor relative to men’s 36% share. While this split seems favorable compared to other nations, it still accounts for 109 minutes more labor for women per day, which adds up to five years over the course of a lifetime. This time is really significant, and represents an enormous opportunity cost for women. On a macro level, it also contributes to gender inequity more broadly in society. Shared parental leave, while a really important step in helping balance gender roles in parenting, is not being taken. I’m increasingly convinced that to have parity in the workplace, we need more equal roles at home. On a more personal level, I’ve had a couple of experiences which have made this idea of sharing housework really resonate. When my parents separated, I realized the damaging consequences of gender inequity and traditional household roles. Being bisexual and having relationships with both women and men also enabled me to experience what it’s like when there are no gender roles, and observe the strong pull of harmful societal norms, despite best intentions. My sister also just had a baby, and I’m realizing how difficult it is to try and manage a home in a balanced way. In the UK it is still commonplace for women to take off up to a year of paid leave from work, while most men get a measly 2 weeks off.
Who works in your team?
Drapper: Asena Uyguner (MBA ‘22) is also part of the Fairshare team. I met her here at HBS through the Field X course. At the beginning of the class, I pitched my idea for feedback and wasn’t looking for teammates, but when I heard others asking for joiners, I mentioned it at the end of my presentation, and Asena reached out to me. Asena has a background in Consumer Goods and worked on cleaning products. She realized the role that marketing had in reinforcing these entrenched gender roles, so Fairshare really appealed to her. Asena has assumed the role of Chief Marketing Officer, but really she works on everything. She has been an immense asset to our young team, as has our non-HBS Chief Technology Officer, who is bringing the app to life.
What are your ambitions?
Drapper: Initially the plan is to launch in the UK, followed by the US. I really hope couples find this tool helpful, and become better able to manage their homes, and have healthier, happier relationships. The bigger goal is to increase awareness of the significance of chores and change behavior. We are registering Fairshare as a charity in the UK–currently I see that as the best way to achieve our mission and maximize potential social change. We still need a revenue-generating business model, so the most likely option is to pursue a business-to-business-to-consumer model, and engage corporations when they are looking to improve productivity and work-life balance, and set their senior female leaders up for success. The goal is to avoid extractive business models and to never require the users to pay themselves. Fundraising as a non-profit will be a tough grind, but we think the short-term challenge will be worth it in the long run.
What made you want to switch careers?
Uyguner: Prior to HBS I worked as an associate brand manager for Turkey’s biggest household brand, Finish detergents. Through that experience I witnessed how traditional gender roles continue to be perpetrated by the industry today. When an advert for our detergent brand that was to be aired on Turkish TV implied pretty directly that washing dishes is “women’s work,” I lobbied hard against it, not only on ethical grounds, but also on business grounds. That was the moment I realized I could do something to help change the narrative.
What made you interested in Fairshare and joining Drapper?
Uyguner: I found out about Fairshare during a Field X course session and the idea of making a positive impact via balancing household chores got me immediately excited. I loved how simple and effective the idea of measuring the time spent on chores could be–it turned out to be much more complex than we had initially thought! I am fascinated by Rachel’s passion as a founder and inspired by her pursuit of fairness in households. So far it has been a curious journey problem solving on a deeply rooted societal issue and brainstorming solutions to create an impact. I feel very happy to have joined Fairshare’s team.
How are you personally thinking about the trade-off between working on this cause in the US, and UK, versus back home in Turkey?
Uyguner: I think it’s valuable to spend time here in the US, but I do also feel a strong responsibility to take my knowledge and skills back home, particularly from a gender equity point of view. Even when I was applying to HBS from Turkey, I didn’t have any female mentors to get support from. For gender equity issues, there are not many people who are willing to solve them in Turkey, perhaps because it’s harder to change these mindsets on the role of women. Given that 90% of the chores are done by women in Turkey, I want to be as helpful as I can be. While I might not immediately move back home, I will eventually.
Rachel Drapper (MBA ’22) is a former Oxford Egyptologist and business strategy consultant. She is highly motivated by gender equity and has recently pivoted her career from transportation to entrepreneurship, where she hopes to better combine her interest in social change with her business training. During her MBA, Rachel has founded a social impact venture called Fairshare and is currently working on a solution to help couple’s be happier and live more equitable lives at home, by better sharing chores. In her spare time, Rachel founded a women’s rugby club at HBS, conducted research into the gender grade gap in the MBA program (https://tinyurl.com/2yh694ud), and researched and wrote about UK policy on equal parenting (https://tinyurl.com/7wf6zecv). She is most engaged when working on topics relating to equality and aspires to have a big impact in this sphere.
Asena Uyguner (MBA ’22) is a second year MBA student at HBS from Turkey, Istanbul. She started her career as a brand manager in consumer goods and later pivoted into management consulting. Recently, she joined as CMO to Fairshare, a social impact venture founded by a fellow HBS classmate. During her MBA, Asena invested herself in contributing to personal and professional development of women. As a board member at the Women’s Student Association, she played a key role in shaping the annual student-led conference. She has also led efforts to build an alumni mentoring program at the marketing club. Her ultimate goal is to help transform marketing culture into a source of positive cultural goods.
Ziana Kotadia (MBA ’22) is from the UK, and most recently made the move from London to Boston. She loves to travel, learn about new cultures and enjoys eating her way through cities. She loves to cook and is passionate about great food.