International Women’s Day may be over for another year, but amidst calls to make every day a commitment to furthering rights and celebrating gender diversity, Uber has partnered with UN Women, promising to create jobs for 1 million females worldwide by the year 2020. The popular ride-share network, which links drivers and passengers for short car journeys via smartphone, currently operates in 54 countries. Since it was founded back in 2009, the app has received criticism for drawing business away from the taxi industry, but in the US, where only 2% of taxi drivers are women, Uber already seems to be making strides in gender equality – female drivers currently account for 14% of Uber’s workforce there.
So, can the rest of the world follow the US’s lead and boost the number of paid women behind the wheel in just five short years? It’s possible, Uber says, because of the easy-to-access nature of their employment opportunities (all you need to become a registered Uber driver is a car under 10 years old and a ‘clean driving record’). Uber also promises greater work flexibility for women with children and family commitments, and to provide entrepreneurial avenues to those who may otherwise be excluded from the mainstream workforce (unless you live in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal for a woman to carry a driver’s license). But the things that make Uber accessible to some can also make it dangerous, causing critics of this new initiative to raise concerns over the safety of female drivers and passengers alike, as well as the unregulated nature of Uber earnings, which often fall below the minimum wage. Paving the road for more women to seek gainful employment outside the home will involve managing these challenges – only time will tell if Uber and the UN can arrive at their ambitious target.