I want to share an interesting theme that came up the other day when I was taking an Uber ride (and briefly tweeted about). I was in DC using Uber for my first time just the other day and headed to lunch when I pulled out my iPhone and called up a black car. Because I was centrally located at 14th and K for work, it took well under 5 minutes for the car to roll up - it was a nice black Escalade.
As a transportation professional, I am naturally curious about any good innovations, so I was inclined to ask the driver about their experience with Uber. It so happened that my driver was woman in her 30s, and she was more than glad to share her experiences. For her own anonymity, I’ll call her “Linda.” I think that what Linda shared is quite insightful to why Uber continues to be a positive disruptive force in the transportation field.
Linda is an immigrant, and had struggled to find her place in the taxi and driving world that tends to be dominated by men. She conveyed that as a female driver, it was tough to be taken seriously, get proper shifts, or generally feel accepted. What Uber enables her to do is use her entrepreneurial skills despite any setbacks she otherwise might face. She’s free to engage in business in a business that traditionally has significant barriers to entry.
She conveyed a sense of empowerment that this new business model gives her as a driver. Linda could have her own independent business of just herself and her car, set her own hours, and not have to face any “issues” with the larger cab companies. She proudly now works for herself.
Importantly, she conveyed a sense of safety and security doing this. Linda was poignant about an issue that many of us (re: men) may not realize: being a female taxi driver can be incredibly dangerous and risky. However, Uber mitigates two of the largest risks.
For one, Linda no longer has to carry any cash on her because the payments are all electronic. Second, the users are registered in Uber so she knows who she’s getting. Unlike picking up an anonymous person on the street, this process is significantly safer for her in that regard, Linda mentioned.
A last point is that as an independent driver, she is empowered to set her own hours and schedule, allowing her time to see her family when she needs to.
I felt that I really learned something from hearing this experience and talking to Linda. I know now that I was completely in the dark about the viewpoint of female cab drivers because it had never occurred to me so directly until I had this conversation. I feel much better and wiser for the experience.
Finally, this anecdote illustrates just how disruptive innovation and new technology can be a positive force in ways that weren’t even originally intended. Who would have thought that Uber’s service could have a feminist twist to it?