Last week, Uber announced a UN partnership to create 1 million jobs for women by 2020. “This important mission can only be accomplished when all women have direct access to safe and equitable earning opportunities,” said a joint letter from Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women and Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO.
And therein lies the rub: safety.
Widely heralded as a PR maneuver to counteract its miserable record on women, the partnership could very easily serve to dig a deeper hole for Uber when it endangers women misled by the company’s claims of safety. The risks female drivers will subject themselves to unless Uber provides some offsetting safety measures are significant. How simple will it be for a sexual predator to book a ride with a female driver using a service that shows drivers’ photos? And should that happen, what lifeline does the driver have? Unlike taxicabs, there’s no call center monitoring the whereabouts of every driver. There will be no emergency switch or panic button for the Uber driver to hit. There won’t even be an Uber telephone number for her to call if she’s carjacked. Or the victim of credit card fraud.
In order to prove this partnership is more than a PR stunt, UN Women must require a lot more from Uber. Otherwise, they are endorsing a scheme to send 1 million of us into harm’s way without a net.
Katherine McLane, The Mach 1 Group