A couple of days ago, Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick announced a plan to hire one million women over the next five years (by 2020) to accelerate economic opportunity for women around the world. Uber doesn’t even have one million drivers globally yet. This is a high bar to set, but all the more due to the fact that taxi driving is not exactly a career path that has attracted many women in the past. Only 2% of their drivers are women.
“Today, UN Women and Uber are launching a partnership to work together around the world toward a shared vision of equality and women’s empowerment. We intend to invest in long-term programs in local communities where we live and work, as Uber commits to creating 1,000,000 jobs for women globally on the Uber platform by 2020,” says Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
In a global partnership with UN Women announced on Uber’s blog, this initiative came to be following much criticism about Uber and their provision of safety features to female riders. As of late, many cases of sexual harassment made headlines globally. For example, in New Delhi, India, Uber was banned temporarily before Uber returned with a “panic button” feature for their passengers there. Uber is currently facing a lawsuit from the woman in New Delhi who accused her Uber driver of rape.
The question is whether Uber’s hiring of more female drivers would lead to a safer service for women in actuality. If anything it does not address the problem of sexual crime against women passengers. Uber seems to be missing the point: there should be more attention paid to who they hire to represent their companies, including a full background check.
A woman created her own Uber-spin-off on-demand car service called SheTaxis (it’s SheRides within New York City due to official Taxi regulations), which launched in September 2014. SheRides is run by women, employs women, and drives women. Its goal is to make women more comfortable. Taxis are often used late at night for women; sometimes in a state of intoxication; sometimes alone, and sometimes during situations where a woman might feel unsafe to begin with. The only problem with this idea is that it’s illegal in its sexual discrimination–refusing service to roughly 50% of the population. This makes sense.
Services like SheRides are great to have available as an option—much like gyms tailored for women i.e. Lucille Roberts, which by the way does not outlaw men from joining. It’s more of a generally accepted fact but men may also legally join. Although women-centered services are a nice option, they are most definitely not addressing the problems at hand.