Women account for the vast majority of Uber’s passengers in Saudi Arabia, but the ride-hailing app wants to start putting more women behind the wheel.
Until September, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women were not allowed to drive, according to Quartz.
Without an independent means of transport, Saudi women have relied heavily on services like Uber and its Dubai-based rival, Careem, in recent years. Currently, female riders make up 80% of Uber’s customers and 70% of Careem’s passengers, CNN reported.
And though both companies stand to lose users once King Salman’s royal decree granting women the right to drive goes into effect this June, they hope to gain new female employees and have already begun recruiting, according to CNN.
“We’re proud to have been able to provide extraordinary mobility for women in Saudi, and are excited by the economic opportunities this change could represent for them in the future,” Uber said in a statement in September. In fact, Uber quietly lobbied for Saudi women’s right to drive for the better part of a year, Quartz reported.
Over the past few months, Careem has been conducting training sessions — led by women who already work for the company in administrative roles — that cover road laws, how to use the app, and customer service, CNN reported. And thousands of Saudi women have already applied to become drivers, Abdullah Elyas, Careem’s co-founder and chief privacy officer, told CNN.
The company aims to hire over 10,000 female drivers by June in anticipation of the royal decree officially going into effect.
But hiring female drivers is about more that just providing economic opportunities to these women.
"Female [drivers] will help us provide a better service to many women who want to travel but refuse to be driven by men," Elyas said.
Still, while women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have improved in the last few years, there is much work to be done. Under the country’s male guardianship, women will still need permission from a man in order to apply for a job with Uber, Careem, or any other company. And Saudi labor laws prohibit women from working after sunset and before sunrise, with a few exceptions, according to CNN.
Though many Saudi women are excited to hit the road this summer and be more self-reliant, the country still has a long way to go before it can claim to have gender equality.
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