Gender diversity has remained just a buzzword in the lives of Indian women pursuing their dream careers. Now, ride-hailing services seek to help the working woman travel the distance with relative ease to lower their burden and reduce barriers, says an International Finance Corporation report.
Driving Toward Equality: Women, Ride-Hailing, and the Sharing Economy, seeks to better understand how women and men participate in ride-hailing, particularly in emerging markets, including Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa.
“Women have embraced ride-hailing as riders, yet little work has been done to understand how it serves their complex transportation needs. Filling this knowledge gap can not only expand the ride-hailing market, but also offer new pathways to improve women’s limited mobility – a persistent barrier to closing gender gaps in economic, social and civic participation,” the report said.
IFC, the sister organisation of the World Bank, and Accenture accessed aggregated and anonymised data from Uber, as well as information from global surveys and interviews to prepare the report, partially funded by the global ride-hailing major.
The report outlines several factors that impede the full participation of women in ride-hailing, including concerns over security, limited freedom of movement, few role models, lack of car ownership, and lower internet access and use compared with that of men.
Barriers to entry for both riders and drivers persist, be they financial, geographic, cultural or regulatory. “While we are proud to have passed the important milestone last year of bringing economic opportunity to one million women drivers, the reality is that the vast majority of these women are in the US,” Uber COO Barney Harford was quoted as saying.
The report also raised a host of nagging questions in relation to women participation in ride-hailing in India.
Insignificant representation of women in the driver workforce in India remains a concern. All women driver partners surveyed were of the view that driving is not “unsuitable” for them, but men’s representation is so high that it creates a barrier for more women to sign up for the job.
However, one-third of the male drivers surveyed said that women were not suitable for driving. While the women felt that social and cultural norms prevented many to apply for a driver’s job, men were not on the same page on the subject.
Security concerns do not appear to trouble the women driver partners of Uber in India, although four of the seven surveyed would like the company to introduce a helpline in case of a problem. A different set of women drivers, however, believed that safety and security concerns could be one of the reasons for lower participation of women. Industry experts were also seen sharing similar views, saying that safety and security threats keep women away from the driving profession.
There are very few women ride-hailing drivers in India on the Uber app. Of the eight currently active, seven have been with the company for six months or more. The average age, at 34 years, is slightly higher than their male peers.
The seven women drivers surveyed in India said that they were motivated to sign up because the “money was good”. They were also attracted by the flexible workhours (5 out of 7); their association with a well-known company (3/7); and because they liked driving (3/7).
Anecdotal evidence suggests some women who start driving for ride-hailing platforms migrate to steadier driving options with hotels or other employers.
India is the only country where both men and women driver partners with Uber said that have seen a significant dip in earnings since the time they entered the ride-hailing industry. Just under one-third of both women and men drivers said their take home pay is higher than it was before signing up with Uber, with some of those interviewed noting that a change in incentive structures meant their earnings had declined sharply over the recent months. However, six of the seven women drivers surveyed earn a robust profit, compared to less-than-half of their male counterparts.
Most Indian women feel unsafe in public spaces. However, women riders do not place a great value on knowing that the vehicle is being tracked with only 24% saying it was a major benefit, or knowing the driver’s name and registration before pickup (18%). The Indian story, in fact, was well below the average for the six countries studied. Around 43% of Indian women felt the lack of a number to call in an emergency is the second most important reason for not using the service more – the average across all countries was at 31%.
Women riders in India are relatively affluent, perhaps explaining why they identify cost transparency as a more important benefit than the cost itself. Nonetheless, 57% of women riders in India said dynamic pricing discourages them from taking more trips, while 42% felt long-distance travel using ride-hailing is too expensive. Overall, a cost decrease of 10% could result in a 57% increase in women customers per month, the report said.
Women riders in India tend to be young and well-educated, and most belong to households with higher-than-median income. They choose ride-hailing for convenience, independence, and access, as well as certainty over cost.
According to them, key benefits include cost transparency (55% versus 42%, globally). The strongest positive association women have with the platform is that it allows them to book and travel quickly and easily (40%). One-third of the women (34%) surveyed felt ride-hailing allows them to be more independent, while 21% said they travel more now. Improved access – getting to places not served by public transportation – emerged as the second biggest benefit of using ride-hailing services.
According to Uber, women riders make 15% more trips compared to men, on an average, per week. In metros, women are more likely to use public transportation or walk to commute compared to men, so the relative affluence of riders surveyed is perhaps key to their ability to travel in relative comfort and safety. Women riders are more likely than men to use lower-cost options: only 26% women used UberX compared to 47% men, while 83% of women riders used UberGO and 66% opted for UberPOOL.
The report said that rapid growth in the ride-hailing industry places it among the most widely recognised segments of today’s sharing economy: an estimated 18% people, globally, used a ride-hailing service in the past 12 months, and the industry is expected to grow eightfold by 2030, with total trips increasing to 100 million per day.
The data in the report find that under the right circumstances, the sector can boost women’s income potential, while at the same time provide a broader section of women access to places that are not served by public transportation or where they feel the existing options are less safe.