Gender and Sexuality News Spotlight 

Women Can’t Drive? Uber and Careem Proves Everyone Wrong

Gender in the Workplace

By: Nourane Selim

Independent transportation companies are the latest enterprises to break gender stereotypes by empowering Egyptian women to fill jobs typically occupied by men.

Careem, a transportation network company, is hiring female captains as a step to empower them, not only in Cairo and Alexandria, but also in the Delta and Canal governorates.

“As part of our continuous endeavors to change public perception of female employment, we have been steadily growing the number of female captains in Egypt,” Careem’s Egypt Public Relations Manager Rana Ghanem told The Caravan. 

“We are creating more jobs for women across Egypt and providing them with reliable means of income.”

One of the main objectives of this initiative is to highlight the role played by women in supporting the national economy and local communities, said Ghanem.

With unemployment persistent at about 12 percent and inflation soaring, many women have welcomed Careem’s initiative.

While Egyptian women make up 50 percent of the population, they constitute less than a quarter of the country’s labor force, according to The Reality of Small and Medium Enterprises 2009-2015, a study by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) issued in September 2016.

Similarly, Uber, another transportation network, aims to empower women through giving female drivers equal opportunities and direct access to safe and equitable earning opportunities.

“Since we started operating in Egypt we had hundreds of women who showed interest in joining Uber as a partner driver,” Uber’s Egypt General Manager Abdellatif Waked told The Caravan. 

In order to make the service even more suitable for women, Uber has created a framework that would help more women apply for the job.

“We created a framework to help them choose their desirable timing slots to work in and finish whenever it is convenient for them, depending on their daily lives routine,” said Waked.

Basma Ali, a biomedical engineer, decided to work as an Uber driver since it provides a solid source of income and is a way for her to practice her hobby on the side.

“I am an Uber fan and a regular client. It was inspiring to see the person driving me to my destination having a high educational background and a good certificate,” she said.

Ali was looking for a job that is not hectic, especially after giving birth to her daughter. She believes that Uber gives her the freedom to decide when to spend time working and when to stay home.

However, the prevalent social shame around girls’ ability to drive continue to present a main challenge for female drivers. Throughout her experience, Ali has been subjected to various reactions and comments from passengers.

“The most frequently asked question is “Why?” and my automatic response would be “Why not?”.”

She often faces some problems — some passengers cancel their requests the moment they see a female driver on the application.

“I recall one of the female clients calling me after canceling the request and telling me I’m sorry the moment I saw you I was scared; they say females are bad drivers.”

Ali created a Facebook group called “Uber Ladies Egypt” to bring together stories of female drivers and clients.

“I wanted to motivate women to get behind the wheel and break the gender stereotypes. It’s totally fine and not shameful to be a female driver.”

Careem says it has received positive feedback from the female captains and customers who rate their overall experience based on the quality of service, regardless of the captain’s gender.

“While the current number of female captains is relatively small compared to our overall captain fleet, we are proud of this growing initiative and our support and encouragement of women as they seek to build their own lives,” said Ghanem.

Uber is now working on enriching the platform with features to make women’s experience safer, more efficient and flexible — drivers can share their trip details with family or friends to secure a safe experience.

It has also added a new in-app chat feature called the intercom, a mean of communication between drivers and riders that ensures faster coordination.

“We are investing in long term programs to empower our drivers not only with job creations, but also with continuous development and training programs, in addition to benefits like education, vehicle solutions, healthcare, insurance and more,” said Waked.

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