As a college student, ridesharing is kind of a big deal. Often cheaper than cabs, companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar could potentially do a lot of good in escorting college students who don’t have much access to personal transportation. It has also been proven that when ridesharing is introduced into a city, DUIs tend to decrease by at least 10 percent. Plus, being an Uber driver happens to be a very convenient way to earn some cash as a student, with its enormously flexible hours that you make for yourself. So, naturally, I brought it up to my own mother as something to chat about. She had a surprisingly strong opinion on the matter:
“No. No, no, no. Maybe for a guy, but that is too unsafe for a twenty-something girl.”
“Riding or driving?” I inquired.
“Both! Don’t do it!”
Our conversation was basically over before it even started, but it got me thinking. Are cab systems unsafe for women?
Why SheRides Exists
You don’t have to dig around much to find all of the horror stories involving female rider and male drivers. One Washington Times article explained, “Both passengers and drivers believe more safety measures are needed, witnesses testified at the hearing on taxicab safety. Most of those who make complaints are women.” In fact, the Washington D.C. Taxicab Commission reported that last year, of their 150 complaints per month, 80 percent of those came from women.
Enter, SheRides + SheTaxis, aka ridesharing for women. Stella Mateo, founder of SheRides, recently launched a test-run for her new cab service “for women, by women.” This service is the first of its kind in the ride-sharing category, offering only female drivers for only female riders. Promising safety and reliability to all potential customers, the SheRides website says, “SheRides’ priority is to offer safe, reliable, and trustworthy drivers, whether it’s taking you home after a night out, starting your day with a ride to work, or picking up your children after school. We give you what no other taxi or black car service can provide: peace of mind.” If women have been drinking or need a change of clothes on the way to work, this service could certainly provide a more comfortable and relaxing environment for women to get where they need to be. But perhaps the most important question weighed on me—did it pass the mom test? After reporting to my mother on SheRides, I received a very positive response: “I would feel much more comfortable with you using that service, I think that’s a much better idea.”
A Way for Women to Earn
Besides safety for its passengers, SheRides also offers great job opportunities for its female drivers. Tamika Mallory, SheRides spokeswoman says, “Less than three percent of taxi and livery drivers in New York City are women, and women riders make up some 60 percent of those hailing a cab or requesting a car in the city.” SheRides has already provided 100 women with jobs where they have the freedom to “keep their own earnings – and there is no pay gap in the livery and taxi industry for women. They will make the same amount that any man who is driving today makes,” explains Pete Donahue in a piece for New York Daily News. And, as I mentioned earlier, being a driver offers incredible flexibility – perfect for working mothers looking to earn some extra cash. In addition, with SheRides, women with religious restrictions (such as Muslims and Orthodox Jews) that don’t allow them to be alone with men in certain settings can safely and comfortably work as a driver transporting fellow women across the city.
SheRides, however, has faced some difficult questions when it comes to discrimination. Donahue explains that a service such as SheRides may flounder with “state and federal laws prohibiting gender-based discrimination.” In response to this concern, it’s worth looking at the SheRides policy: If a woman requests the services of SheRides with a male rider, the driver will gladly drive the couple. If not, the driver will direct the male rider to an affiliate service. “We are not refusing – we’re referring,” says Mateo.
SheRides’ official launch is currently being delayed, as their test run showed that they would need at least 400 additional drivers. Mateo will be hosting lunches and job fairs in New York, seeking more female drivers.