Everybody by now knows what Uber is. But can you quickly make a mental picture of a Uber woman driver? Probably not. I can’t. And why not?
Off the top of my head it probably has to do with safety, many women feeling that it would not be safe or a good idea for a woman to be a Uber driver. Perhaps for the same reason for so very few women taxi drivers.
Or could it be more due to machismo? After all the public transport sector is dominated by men. In the majority men driving the buses, the taxis and even colliding trains into each other. Despite this an increasingly number of women behind the wheel. I can remember a time in Costa Rica when it was an oddity to see a woman behind the wheel of an automobile. Today it is the norm.
To get my answer I asked three women friends who drive. All three said safety was an issue. Their personal safety and security being the main concern, especially if having to work at night, which according to two male friends who have, one still is, a Uber driver, the best time to make money is at night. The one male friend who, although continues in the system, is no longer a Uber driver says he quit because be couldn’t make money during the day, refusing the night work, the day is just too much traffic congestion, customers upset at the cost and the profits literally burned away.
I sent Uber an email asking for numbers of women Uber drivers. I got no reply. According to my two male friends, no women attended the Uber orientation during theirs, taken at different times.
I began a search on the web on women drivers in Costa Rica, disappointing Google results. And even more disappointing for Uber in particular.
I did find two articles worth noting, the most recent (last month) on Mic.com, “Is Uber Doing Enough to Protect Women Drivers From Sexual Harassment?” and on Forbes.com (of April 2015), “Why Aren’t There More Female Uber And Lyft Drivers?“.
The Mic.com story is of LaDonna Raeh and her firsthand experience of what it’s like to have all sorts of strangers in her car.
Raeh says “they won’t always leave her backseat without protest”, relating her story of a young male rider who, when it came to drop him off, insisted she kiss him before he would leave her vehicle. “Could I just kiss you one time? I could die and be happy,” Raeh says of the young man.
“About five times in about 1,000 rides, I’ve had a man that lets his hand wander over to my leg, touch my hand,” a female Arizona Uber driver in her 30s told Forbes. The Atlanta woman tells her story of a drunk male passenger sitting in the front seat of her Uber car, asking her to drive him to a strip club, then asked if she wanted to “make some extra money” and “dance for him”. After she declined, she said he reached over and rubbed her thighs and breasts while she was driving and asked if she had ever had sex in a car. Once they stopped driving, he allegedly grabbed her face and tried to kiss her before getting out.
Another Uber driver, an Arizona woman in her 30s who didn’t want to be named, said that getting asked to come home with drunk male passengers is something every female driver should be prepared for. “About five times in about 1,000 rides, I’ve had a man that lets his hand wander over to my leg, touch my hand,” she said. “You have to be that woman that’s going to say, ‘Don’t touch me,’ that says, ‘Get out.’”
According to the Forbes article, in April 2015, in the U.S. only 14% of U.S. Uber drivers are women – a little higher than the 12.7% of U.S. taxi drivers and chauffeurs that are women and much higher than the 1% of New York City cabbies that are women.
I understand the safety concerns expressed by the women I talked to, but why aren’t women taking these jobs? if the Uber app keeps drivers safer than taxi drivers by removing the use of cash and tracking each ride?
But, it still involves driving alone and picking up strangers, was the resounding answer by all three.
In conclusion, it appears the economic opportunity by Uber has excluded women, not because the company does want them (in the U.S., still no idea of what Uber in Costa Rica thinks about this). No, women, at least the three I talked to, have self-selected out of it.
To be a Uber woman driver in Costa Rica or anywhere else simply means having to be a woman who has to be able to say “Don’t Touch Me“.
Stories of guys (drunk or otherwise) not respecting boundaries is something not appealing to most women.