An increasing number of women driving for Uber and other taxi services has made waves for gender inclusion but has also raised concerns about safety and restrictive social norms.
A report by the International Finance Corporation and Accenture showed that the increase of women drivers in the global south – which includes countries such as India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Egypt – has marked a number of successes for women in the workforce.
For one, the barrier to attain an entry-level job has been minimized. Ride-hailing has boosted women’s effectiveness in balancing households and work, and improved independence and mobility.
These changes can be chalked up to what is known as “sharing economy platforms.” Basically, it’s the usage of online applications that facilitate transactions in services, assets, or both, according to the report. Findings showed that an estimated 338 million consumers had downloaded a ride-arranging app.
“New and emerging technologies are having a transformative impact on development,” said Stephanie von Friedeburg, chief operating officer for IFC. “Not only do these technologies address development challenges, they enable innovation and entrepreneurship, which help build economies that can evolve and adapt through times of change.”
The report found many reasons why women choose to drive as their job. It can be a way to earn additional income, engage in networking, and an outlet for women who genuinely enjoy driving and being social. Another bonus? The flexible hours, which draw in women who care for children or other relatives.
But where there are pros, there are always cons.
Personal safety and security, as well as gender segregation, raise serious concerns among the communities. According to the IFC report, 44 percent of women surveyed said they would be more likely to choose to use Uber if provided the option of choosing a woman driver.
DriveHer, a Toronto-based driving service, was designed for women who prefer to be driven by other women for safety and comfort reasons. The app was met with discontent by city officials and locals for what the believed was a promotion of “gender segregation.” DriverHer’s founder Aisha Addo responded that men weren’t going to be denied or left stranded. They could use other services such as Uber.
“The fact that [they] have a problem with this proves that we cannot have anything for ourselves without getting shamed for it,” said Addo.
Another major con is that drivers generally choose when to work, and thus have no benefits. Women receive no maternity leave, formal training, or pensions. All of those are downsides to the “sharing economy platform.”
Gender gaps also affect women’s access to certain kinds of asset ownership. Illiteracy and program restrictions – like not being able to own a bank account or a car – can hinder success.
While ride-hailing services are revolutionizing the taxi industry by encouraging and increasing women’s involvement, there’s still a long road ahead. Women must go up against more than technicalities. They have to go against deep-rooted social and cultural norms that otherwise state driving is a man’s hobby. But these women drivers breaking social stigmas are pioneers in their own right. They are challenging the status quo and mapping new terrain for the future generations to come.
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